NAIROBI, November 18 – The British Navy on Tuesday handed over to Kenyan authorities eight suspected Somali pirates arrested during a counter-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia.
British Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth told reporters that the pirates had been surrendered to the Kenyan police to face ‘resolute action.’
“I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the Kenyan government for its resolute action in agreeing to try the suspects in accordance with their and our legal obligations,” he said at a press conference which was also attended by British High Commissioner Rob Macaire.
He said the suspects had been handed over to the police in Mombasa following their arrest on November 11.
They were arrested when Royal Marines personnel from HMS Cumberland boarded a foreign flagged fishing vessel which had been spotted taking part in an attack on the Danish Merchant Vessel, Powerful.
“Their actions led to the release of the Yemeni vessel and its crew who have since returned to Yemen,” Ainsworth said.
Upon release of the Yemeni vessel, the Somalis were subsequently transferred to RFA Wave Knight which docked in Mombasa on Tuesday morning to hand over the suspects to Kenyan authorities.
"This represents a successful outcome. An attack on a merchant vessel was deterred and innocent Yemeni victims were rescued. It sends a powerful message to pirates that their activities are unacceptable; and that the global community is united in its efforts to deter and disrupt them," he said.
“I am extremely proud of the men and women involved. HMS Cumberland has since resumed her counter-piracy patrol duties.”
Asked why the Royal Navy decided to hand them over to Kenya for prosecution instead of trying them in London, Ainsworth said: "I don’t see the reason of transferring them around the world when we have a regional country that is prepared to prosecute them."
Tuesday’s hand-over of the suspects followed the weekend seizure in a separate incident of the Sirius Star, a massive oil tanker that is the largest ever vessel to be seized by Somali pirates.
"But we are under no illusion about the scale of the challenge presented by piracy. This has been underlined by the hijacking of the merchant vessel Sirius Star on Saturday," he said.
"The taking of such a large vessel so far out to sea represents a step-change in capability for the pirates. Alongside our international partners, Her Majesty’s government is deeply concerned, not least because two of the crew are British. We call on those holding the men to release them and the rest of crew immediately."
The British minister who is in Kenya for official duties said piracy was affecting international trade.
“This is a huge problem, it’s not only a problem for the regional countries, it’s also a problem to world trade. We must do everything we can to ensure that we stop piracy," he said.
Mr Ainsworth said he was in the country to advance the close defence relationship between London and Nairobi.
“I am delighted that the amount of joint training our two armies carry out is increasing,” he said.
Mr Ainsworth plans to travel to Archer’s Post in Isiolo to see joint military training between Kenya and the UK.
“I will also be visiting Embakasi to see progress on the development of the Eastern African Standby Brigade for peacekeeping operations and members of the British Peace Support Team,” he said.
Britain supports the programme at a cost of Sh700 million annually.
“Over and above this, we are currently spending Sh120 million to build ad outfit the headquarters that the Kenyan Armed Forces will use to plan and manage its participation through the work of its armed forces in peacekeeping operations,” Mr Ainsworth said.