France seizes 35 Somali pirates


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Dec 17, 2009
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France seizes 35 Somali 'pirates'

The French navy has captured 35 piracy suspects off Somalia's coast - hailing it as the most successful mission since EU operations began in 2008.

French officials said four mother ships and six smaller boats had been seized in four operations since last Friday.

EU forces used helicopters and fired warning shots to capture the pirates, France's defence ministry said.

The EU launched its anti-piracy mission in December 2008, but the pirates have since attacked ships in a wider area.

The EU's mission has focused on the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes which was being ravaged by pirates.

But recently, the attackers have struck hundreds of miles further south - near the Seychelles and even as far afield as Madagascar.

Legal problems

The defence ministry said the frigate Nivose was backed by an Italian vessel and Spanish aircraft during its three-day mission.

The ministry did not specify where the action took place, but said 22 suspected pirates were held on Friday, two on Saturday and 11 more on Sunday.

It is not yet clear what France intends to do with the suspects.

More than 100 Somalis accused of piracy have been sent to Kenya, but very few have been convicted and most are languishing in jail awaiting trial in the country's overburdened legal system.

A handful have been sent for trial in France, the Netherlands and the US.

But jurisdiction over suspected pirates seized on the high seas remains unclear and calls for an international tribunal to be set up have so far come to nothing.

Lawlessness in Somalia allows the pirates to function with relative impunity in their own country - and many pirate leaders have reportedly amassed fortunes through ransoms paid by shipping firms.

War-ravaged Somalia has had no functioning central government since 1991.

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