Joint force seizes two boats in Seychelles’ EEZ-Nine arrested after operation against pirates


29-April-2009

Local medical personnel attending to one of the captured men

The arrests were made at the northern edge of Seychelles’ 1.3 million square kilometre exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which borders Somali waters.

The suspects were handed over to police on board the Seychelles Coast Guard vessel Andromache yesterday.

A Spanish navy frigate – the Numancia – intercepted a skiff carrying nine suspected Somali pirates and, with the help of French, Indian and Seychellois naval forces, the boat was followed and seized on Monday afternoon.

The boat and another that was found drifting were towed to Port Victoria by the Andromache, which arrived early yesterday morning with the nine men onboard.

They are suspected of attacking Italian cruise ship the MSC Melody on Sunday April 26, about 200 nautical miles north of Seychelles’ main islands.

President James Michel has praised the Seychellois officers in charge of the operation on their success in arresting the men. He also congratulated the Spanish and French forces – part of the joint European Union naval operation Atalanta – and the Indian navy ship Nirdeshak for their timely response to Seychelles’ request for help.

The two skiffs, one of which was intercepted and the other found drifting, were towed by the Andromache to Victoria

“We need to protect and safeguard Seychelles’ EEZ, and we thank the European and Indian forces for helping us in the joint operation to apprehend the suspected pirates,” he said.

“While the attack took place far away from the Seychelles islands, and posed no danger to our citizens, it is imperative that the waters of Seychelles remain safe for all leisure, fishing and commercial vessels passing through the area.”

Mr Michel added that international cooperation is the key to fighting piracy at sea and there is a need for continued vigilance in the area.

High-ranking government, SPDF and police personnel look on as the Andromache arrives with the nine suspected pirates on board

Incident operations officer of the Seychelles Coast Guard, Captain Jean Attala, said news of the attack on the luxury cruise liner MSC Melody was received in the early hours of Sunday, and three aircraft were then deployed – a French Falcon surveillance plane, a Spanish helicopter from the warship Numancia and a Seychelles Coast Guard plane.

“They started a search for the pirate boat using the precise coordinates given by the crew of the MSC Melody during the attack,” said Captain Attala.

“The Seychellois plane sighted the suspected pirates, and the planes then took turns in marking the target by staying in the air until another one arrived on the scene to relieve it.”

The Seychelles Coast Guard plane spent a total of five hours in the air to mark and photograph the skiffs before handing over the position to the Spanish helicopter.

The Andromache then reached the suspected pirate boat and arrested the nine men on board. They are now being held in a police cell in Seychelles and are expected to be charged and tried here.

   

Two of the suspected pirates being escorted off the Andromache

Indian high commissioner Asit Kumar Nag called on President Michel yesterday to talk about further cooperation in anti-piracy efforts. He commended the various forces involved in the arrest of the pirates.

During an interview with the high commissioner, three senior Indian naval officers said the Seychelles Coast Guard has items they believe show the suspects could be pirates.

“The skiffs had no fishing gear on them, they were so far from Somalia, had a lot of fuel with them and even grapnels used to board ships.

Furthermore, the grapnels had cloth material wrapped around them so they don’t make a noise when they are thrown on to a ship that the pirates may want to attack,” they said.

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