VICTORIA (Reuters) - A Spanish warship has arrested nine suspected pirates believed to be behind an attack on an Italian cruise ship and handed them over to Seychelles, the head of an anti-piracy taskforce said on Tuesday.
Sea gangs have to run amok in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden where nations from around the world have sent warships to shield vessels plying shipping lanes linking Asia to Europe.
The MSC Melody, with a capacity of 1,500 passengers and crew, used guns and a fire hose to fight off pirates who attempted to hijack the vessel 200 miles (320 km) north of the Seychelles archipelago at the weekend.
A Spanish warship chased down two skiffs and arrested the nine people on board on Monday and handed the suspected pirates over to Seychelles’ coast guard.
“Pirates who attacked the Melody have been arrested within the Seychelles exclusive economic zone. The police and medical authorities are on board now,” Joel Morgan, chairman of Seychelles’ anti-piracy taskforce, told Reuters.
“We are considering pressing charges locally although this will depend on the attorney general’s office and the evidence the police put forward,” said Morgan, who is also the nation’s minister of environment, natural resources and transport.
Sea gangs have made millions of dollars in ransoms, seizing ships and taking crews hostage in the strategic waterways. Pirates have become better equipped, using satellite navigation systems and operating from mother ships to extend their range.
The Seychelles archipelago covers more than 1.3 million square km (500,000 square miles) of the Western Indian Ocean although total land area is only 445 square km.