Pirates take crew of Spanish fishing boat to shore: report

April 22, 2008 12:00 am

, MADRID, April 22- Pirates who seized a Spanish fishing boat off Somalia have taken the 26 crew members off the vessel onto dry land, the wife of the captain told Spanish radio Tuesday.

The captain, Amadeo Alvarez, told his wife by telephone that the pirates had ordered the 13 Spaniards and 13 Africans to disembark.

The crew "are a little more calm," his wife told Spanish National Radio. "I spoke to my husband and they are well, they are being well treated."

She said they had "arrived on land," but did not indicate where.

A government spokesman contacted by AFP would not confirm the information.

The father of one of the hostages also told Radio Euskadi that there were 10 pirates, instead of four as was initially reported, and they are "soldiers."

"From what the kid told me they are soldiers, with military tactics and training," he said.

Pirates armed with grenade launchers seized the tuna boat, the Playa de Bakio, on Sunday, and have demanded a ransom to release the crew.

The Spanish government on Tuesday ordered Spain’s ambassador to Kenya to go to the Somali capital Mogadishu "as soon as possible to speed up the liberation of the kidnapped sailors," it said in a statement.

Spain has no embassy in Somalia. Its embassy in Kenya is responsible for the Horn of Africa country.

"The government is holding constant talks with other friendly and allied countries, like France and the United States, countries which are already providing technical help to end the kidnapping," the statement added.

A Spanish military frigate on Monday left the Red Sea to begin searching for the fishing boat off east Africa.

Defence Minister Carme Chacon Tuesday canceled all her impending appointments in order to concentrate on the crisis.

The coastal waters off Somalia, which has not had an effective central government for more than 17 years and is plagued by insecurity, are considered to be among the most dangerous waterways for shipping in the world.

Last year more than 25 ships were seized by pirates in Somali coastal waters despite US navy patrols.

So far this year eight boats from various countries have been seized by pirates in the region, according to the statement from the Spanish government.

The International Maritime Bureau advises merchant ships to stay at least 200 nautical miles from the Somali coast.
The seizure came two days after a Paris court charged six Somalis with taking the crew of a French luxury yacht hostage earlier this month.

The six were captured by French Special Forces, along with 200,000 dollars (125,000 euros) of suspected ransom money, after they released the 30-strong crew of the yacht on April 11. They had held the group hostage for a week.


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