Pirate-seized fishing boat arrives in Somalia
One of the 26 fishermen told his father over the phone and said the MS Playa de Bakio has landed in Somalia.22 April 2008
MADRID - A Spanish fishing vessel seized by pirates in the Indian Ocean has reached the coast of Somalia, one of the 26 fishermen on board told his father over the phone on Tuesday.
Spanish radio reports said the fishermen and their kidnappers had left the boat. The pirates were hoping to obtain a higher ransom by negotiating on land rather than at sea, according to the report.
It was not clear where exactly the MS Playa de Bakio had landed in Somalia.
Fisherman Mikel Arana said more pirates had boarded the vessel, increasing their number from four to about 10.
The pirates appeared to be military men, Arana told his father, who received the call in Spain's Basque region.
Spanish reports had earlier suggested that the pirates belonged to a Somali militia.
Officials from Spain's north-western Galicia region, where some of the fishermen were from, said negotiations were being carried out to release them as soon as possible.
Galicia is represented in a crisis team established by the Spanish government to handle the situation.
The 76-metres-long Playa de Bakio was seized Sunday in international waters when pirates attacked it with grenade launchers without damaging the boat.
The tuna fishing vessel carried 13 Spanish and 13 African fishermen.
Arana said the pirates had treated the fishermen fairly well, except for sequestering most of them in the trawler's dining room and stealing some objects.
The frigate Mendez Nunez, one of Spain's most modern warships, was on its way from the Red Sea towards the Horn of Africa, but government sources said its presence would be "dissuasive" and no military action was planned.
The daily El Pais, however, said the government was considering a rescue operation if it could not resolve the situation through other means, such as paying the ransom demanded by the pirates.
The Mendez Nunez carries marine infantry soldiers, including elite snipers, but a military operation would require the dispatch of a special operations group from Spain, according to El Pais.
Spain has also contacted a NATO task force present in the area, in case it could provide any useful information.
Piracy situations off Somalia have not been resolved through rescue operations so far, according to Spanish reports.
There was, however, the possibility of paying a ransom and of arresting the pirates after the hostages had been released, a strategy pursued by France, which captured some pirates after they freed 30 hostages earlier this month.
Legislators from Spain's Basque region, where some of the kidnapped fishermen are from, meanwhile accused the government of not providing security for the 22 Spanish tuna fishing vessels in the Indian Ocean.
The government refused to send a frigate to the area, arguing that it could not provide adequate protection to fishermen operating over a vast zone, media reported.
[dpa / ANP / Expatica]