Nine Suspected Pirates Arrested Over Cruise Ship Hijack Attempt

Published April 28, 2009

| Associated Press

The Seychelles Coast Guard said Tuesday it had arrested nine suspected pirates believed to be behind the weekend attempt to hijack a luxury cruise liner carrying an estimated 1,000 tourists in the Indian Ocean.

A coast guard statement said the nine arrived in a port of the Seychelles islands on Tuesday and were being held in a local jail. They were thought to have participated in the attempted hijacking of the MSC Melody, which was attacked Saturday 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) north of the Seychelles.

The Melody, carrying about 1,000 passengers and 500 crew, was en route from Durban, South Africa to Genoa, Italy, on a 22-day luxury cruise when pirates in skiffs opened fire late Saturday. The cruise ship's security detail returned fire, startling the pirates, who gave up and turned around.

When the Melody made a distress call, the Seychelles Coast Guard says it sent out an aircraft that spent five hours photographing the pirates' skiff and marking its position, before passing it on to a Spanish frigate that was in the area. The Spanish Ministry of Defense said in a statement that the Spanish navy tracked the skiff and apprehended the suspects. They were then turned over to the Seychelles Coast Guard.

In the Philippines, the largest single provider of the world's seafarers, the government urged Pacific Rim transportation ministers Tuesday to aid its ships and sailors through pirate-infested Somali waters amid a slump in global trade.

Philippines Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza appealed to officials from the 21-member Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting to address the menace of piracy to provide armed escorts to Philippine ships, said Transportation Undersecretary Maria Elena Bautista.

Somalia, Kenya's neighbor on Africa's eastern coast, has become the staging ground for dozens of attacks by pirates in small boats. Analysts say the problem cannot be solved by security alone, arguing that piracy is a byproduct of Somalia's tailspin into anarchy following the 1991 overthrow of its government.

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