- As international warships sail towards Somali waters to clean out piracy, French naval officials have today handed nine suspected sea robbers said to have been captured near Gulf of Eden.
According to a statement from French ministry of defense, nine alleged pirates were handed over to Somali officials today, who gave assurances that prisoners would be treated according to international conventions.
Ministry statement said a French vessel intercepted pirates in two small boats during a routine check near the coast, where they also found anti-tank missiles and other weaponry as well as "boarding gear" aboard the boats.
French commandos had seized a dozen pirates in two previous raids and helped free boats and hostages.
International Maritime Bureau has reported a surge in pirate attacks off Somali coast this year, even joining depressed and incapacitated Somalia's government in calling for international action against piracy.
More than 30 ships have reportedly been seized this year in busy shipping lanes near Somalia and in Gulf of Aden.
As news of captured pirates broke today, it was also reported that food and water are running low on an Ukrainian arms ship hijacked by Somali pirates. A pirate spokesman was also reported to have issued a warning that if the ship was attacked by NATO forces its 20-man crew would be among those killed.
NATO is said to be sending seven frigates to support US navy vessels already there, while India and several European countries have said they would also mount anti-piracy patrols.
Admiral Fitzerald said NATO's mission was mainly to protect ships carrying United Nations (UN) aid to Somalia, where more than three million people, are in need of food aid, also expressing hope that NATO vessels would be able to protect other ships. Around 20,000 vessels are said to pass by Somalia each year.
Piracy off coast of Somalia is estimated to have cost up to US$30m in ransoms so far this year, according to a recent report.
Authorities in Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland say they are often powerless to confront pirates, many of who are based in town of Eyl.
Somalia has lacked a functioning central government since 1991 and has been afflicted by continual civil unrest.
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