Rescued fishermen arrive in Seychelles

March 31, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Mar 31 – Fishermen rescued from Somali pirates were brought ashore Wednesday, after three days of high-seas drama which saw the Seychelles coastguard sink several pirate boats.

The Topaz coastguard vessel brought the fishermen back to safety in the Indian Ocean state\’s capital of Victoria, an official from the Seychelles presidency and witnesses told AFP by phone.

The six Seychellois fishermen who were taken hostage by Somali pirates over the weekend were greeted by a large crowd of officials, friends and relatives, witnesses said.

The Topaz freed them, together with 21 Iranian fishermen the same pirates had already captured, during a daring raid in which a hail of bullets was fired to set the pirates\’ engine on fire and force everyone into the water.

One of the Iranians was wounded in the raid and evacuated by air while the remaining 20 arrived Wednesday. Nine pirates were also rescued and brought back to Victoria, where they are expected to be charged.

On Tuesday, as the coastguard was sailing back to the main island of Mahe, it repelled an attack by pirate boats, destroying two of them.

The lifting of the winter monsoon in recent days has spurred a fresh spate of attacks by pirates able to venture hundreds of miles from their bases and approach their prey on relatively calm seas.

The Seychelles economy relies heavily on tuna-fishing and tourism and the country has had several ships hijacked since 2008.

Seychelles lawmakers earlier this month passed a new law allowing the nation — where 115 islands are spread over a territory three times the size of France but are inhabited by only 85,000 people — to take tougher action.

The archipelago is one of only two littoral states, together with Kenya, which has struck agreements with the Western powers patrolling the region\’s seas to prosecute suspected pirates.


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