Pirates bring three Spanish crew members to Somalia

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Spanish media reports the pirates have threatened to hand over the crew members to the families of the two suspects held in Spain.

Madrid – Pirates holding a Spanish tuna trawler off the Somali coast took three of its crew members to Somalia on Thursday, Spain's Defence Minister Carme Chacon said.

"At 8:15am the pirates ordered (several of the crew) to call their families to tell them that three (of them) were being moved to a smaller boat to take them to land," which happened an hour later, Chacon said.

"We know exactly where they are and we know that they're fine," she told a news conference.

Chacon was confirming information from the wife of one of the fishermen, Maria Angeles, who said the pirates "led away three members of the crew" to the coast.

Angeles spoke to Spanish National Radio after talking to her husband by phone.

A defence ministry spokesman said the kidnappers also fired into the air and exploded a grenade in the sea during the transfer.

The pirates seized the boat, the Alakrana, and its 36 crew members on 2 October.

They are demanding USD four million (EUR 2.6 million) ransom as well as the release of two suspected pirates held in Spain.

Spanish troops monitoring the area off the Somali coast captured the two suspects shortly after they left the Alakrana on a small boat.

Spanish media quoted sources close to the crew as saying the pirates had threatened to hand over the hostages to the families of the two suspects held by Spain.

The wife of another crew member said the hostages feared for their lives.

"My husband has just called me. He was crying and afraid. They (the crew) are being threatened. They are not well. They say that if this continues they will all die," said Silvia Albes.

Chacon accused the pirates of using the grief of the families to increase pressure to achieve their aims.

Somali pirates, who have launched almost daily attacks near the Seychelles since monsoon winds dropped a month ago, currently hold a total of nine ships and around 200 crew.

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Thursday the government was doing "everything we can" to help free the hostages, and added she was sending out a message to their families not to worry. She did not elaborate.

The government last week authorised private security firms which protect Spanish trawlers from Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean to use military-type large-calibre weapons.

AFP / Expatica

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