Following an attack in early January on a merchant vessel 260 miles off the Somali Coast, twelve men suspected of committing an act of piracy, were today transferred by EU Naval Force warship FS Surcouf to the Mauritian authorities for prosecution.
When the attack happened on 5th January, the master of the merchant vessel sent out a distress call reporting that he and his crew were coming under attack by six men in a fast moving boat, armed with rocket propelled grenades. Thankfully, having employed avoidance tactics, the merchant vessel was able to repel the attack.
Upon hearing the distress call, NATO warship USS Halyburton, operating as part of NATO's counter piracy operation - Ocean Shield, and on patrol 80 nautical miles away, launched her helicopter and was able to quickly locate a suspect boat - which was by now towing another vessel, with several men on board.
EU Naval Force French Frigate Surcouf, operating as part of the EU's counter piracy mission - Operation Atalanta, made best speed to the area, as a German EU Naval Force Maritime Patrol Aircraft kept watch overhead. Upon arrival, and in full cooperation with the NATO warship, the boarding team from French warship Surcouf boarded the two suspect vessels and apprehended twelve men in total.
When suspect pirates are apprehended at sea, EU Naval Force always seeks, where possible, a legal finish and after engaging with Mauritian authorities, who hold a transfer agreement with the EU, the twelve men were today transferred to Mauritius for prosecution.
Speaking about the successful transfer, the Operation Commander of the EU Naval Force, Rear Admiral Bob Tarrant said 'I welcome the news that the twelve suspect pirates were today transferred to Mauritius for prosecution.
Mauritius is a key partner in the fight against piracy in the region and today we sent a clear message to pirates that EU Naval Force and Mauritius are determined and committed to achieve legal prosecution for those accused of attacking ships at sea'.
Operation Atalanta commenced in December 2008 and is focused on the deterrence and repression of acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali Coast. The EU mission also provides protection to World Food Programme (WFP) and African Union Mission Somalia (AMISOM) shipping, together with the protection of vulnerable shipping on a case by case basis and the monitoring of fishing activities.