Navies evacuate sick crew member from pirated ship

A crew member with suspected appendicitis was evacuated Friday from a pirate-held ship a European Union Naval Force spokesman said, describing what was apparently the first medical evacuation arranged with Somali pirates.

An inflatable boat from a Thai warship retrieved the Tunisian crew member on Friday from the MV Hannibal II in the Indian Ocean off Somalia, Wing Cmdr. Paddy O'Kennedy said. The unidentified crewman was then flown by helicopter to a larger German warship with better medical facilities.

The Tunisian master of the ship contacted authorities on Thursday, saying he had a sick crew member and that the pirates had agreed to allow him to be evacuated. The MV Hannibal II has been held by pirates since Nov. 11.

Meanwhile a court on the island nation of Seychelles found nine Somali pirates guilty of piracy and sentenced them each to 22 years in jail.

Acting Attorney General David Esparon said Friday the court rejected pirates' claims of innocence after hearing consistent accounts from witnesses. Esparon said the men hijacked two vessels in March — a Seychelles fishing boat, Galate, and an Iranian ship, Al-Ahmadi.

The pirates first steered Galate to Somalia until it ran out of fuel. They then refueled it after capturing the Iranian ship.

A Seychelles coast guard patrol boat, Topaz, rescued the crew of both vessels on March 29 after exchanging fire with the pirates.

Esparon said 15 suspected Somali pirates are still awaiting trial.