Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessel Fort Victoria - part of NATO’s counter-piracy task force Operation OCEAN SHIELD - has handed over the suspected pirates to the Seychelles authorities for prosecution.
The suspected Somali pirates were captured on 13 January 2012 by Royal Navy and Royal Marines teams embarked on Fort Victoria under the NATO-led operation.
The suspected pirates, who were known to have been operating in the Indian Ocean, were intercepted on board a hijacked Yemeni fishing dhow. They were found to have a variety of pirate paraphernalia and weapons on board, including rocket-propelled grenades and hand-held grenades.
This is the culmination of four months of counter-piracy operations for the UK Counter-Piracy Task Group based on RFA Fort Victoria under the command of Captain Gerry Northwood.
Captain Northwood said:
This has been a long four months of intensive counter-piracy operations during which time we have captured more than 30 pirates for prosecution and rescued 44 merchant mariners from the hands of the pirates.
This success has been echoed by other NATO units engaged in counter-piracy operations and the handover of these suspected pirates to the Seychelles authorities will contribute to ensuring the waters of the Indian Ocean become a safer place for all mariners.
The UK’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said:
We are very grateful to the Seychelles for their agreement to prosecute these suspected pirates. Their commitment to the fight against piracy has helped avoid a situation where these individuals were not held to account for their actions.
In a few weeks time the London Conference on Somalia will discuss how the international community can tackle the many problems faced by Somalia, including piracy. Today’s agreement on the transfer of alleged pirates demonstrates what can be achieved through international co-operation and commitment.
Danish ship HDMS Absalon, another NATO ship conducting counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, was also in the Seychelles to hand over four suspected pirates to the Seychelles authorities.
NATO has contributed to the international counter-piracy effort off the Horn of Africa since December 2008. The mission has expanded from escorting UN and World Food Programme shipping under Operation ALLIED PROVIDER and protecting merchant traffic in the Gulf of Aden under Operation ALLIED PROTECTOR.
NATO has announced its continuing commitment to counter-piracy by extending Operation OCEAN SHIELD to December 2012.