10 May 2010

Somali pirates seize two ships, demand ransom

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Pirates seized two vessels over the weekend and were towing a German-owned tanker to the Somali coast Sunday, according to maritime officials.
The pirates attacked the German-owned Marida Marguerite about 190 kilometers south of Oman on Saturday, as it was heading from India to Belgium, the EUNval Force (EUNVFOR) said, adding that there is an international crew of 22 onboard, consisting of 19 Indians, 1 Ukrainian and 2 Bangladeshis.
Commander John Harbour, a spokesman for the EUNVFOR, said it is unlikely that military forces will storm the ship, as the officials don't believe the crew all made it to a safe room before the pirates boarded.
Just hours before the seizure, Somali pirates hijacked a Taiwanese fishing boat, the Tai Yuan 227, off the Horn of Africa coast. The boat had 26 crewmembers, including nine mainlanders, according to the International Maritime Bureau, the Xinhua News Agency said.
The vessel's owner temporarily lost contact with the ship when it was north of the Seychelles, on its way to the Maldives, according to Xinhua. After communications were restored Friday, the pirates demanded a ransom.
The two hijackings happened shortly after Russian marines stormed a seized Russian oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden in a raid Thursday, capturing several pirates who had been released because of "imperfections" in international law, the AP quoted Russia's defense ministry as saying Friday.
"If the pirates engage in illegal action on the high seas, the victim is entitled to exercise jurisdiction in line with international law," said Xue Lei, a research associate at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
"However, if the pirates are captured within a country's territorial waters, the costal state holds the final jurisdiction right," Xue added.
Pirate attacks have continued despite 35 international warships patrolling the waters off the lawless Somali coast, the AP reported Saturday, adding that 11 suspected Somali pirates were indicted in a US federal court in late March. Additionally, the international community has had a hard time formulating a policy on the detainment and trying of pirate suspects.
Xue said that political unrest in Somalia is the root cause for the surge in piracy.
"The Somali interim government was established in 2004, but the country is still in a state of anarchy due to the government's incompetence to stop conflicts among military groups. Even if the international law could bring pirates to justice, it still can't help the Somali government rebuild order and stop piracy," Xue said.

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