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Five pirates arrested by the Louise-Marie (maj2)

Skiff pirates in the “eye of the helicopter” – in the middle the RHIB which is heading there – on the right the Louise-Marie (credit: Maritime component of the Belgian army)

(BRUSSELS2) The Belgian frigate Louise-Marie, which is cruising off the coast of Somalia on behalf of the European operation Eunavfor Atalanta, intercepted five pirates on Saturday (December 15), around 15 p.m. local time. An arrest which owes nothing to chance. The men were tracked. As of Wednesday, a suspicious group of skiffs was spotted off the coast of Somalia by Eunavfor patrol planes. The Louise-Marie is then leaving the port of Mombasa (in Kenya) where she had stopped. Closest to the location, she then heads towards the area.

The suspicious boat was located again on Saturday (December 15) around 12 p.m. by the Swedish coastguard patrol plane, based in the Seychelles. The Louise Marie helicopter intervened immediately, followed at sea by the RHIB with the boarding team. “ After the verbal summons, the pirates quickly raised their arms “says the Belgian navy. " Their boat was equipped with a ladder and a grappling hook. Which leaves little doubt about their intentions. However " no weapons found " on board. The skiff was brought back on board, for evidence, or if it was necessary to free the pirates, to release them back into the water.

The suspects are, however, suspected of having attacked the MV Papua (*), on November 28, 500 nautical miles from the Somali coast. The pirates in two skiffs, supported by a mother ship, then attempted to storm the ship, armed with grappling hooks and ladders. They had been pushed back by the private security team on board. The system put in place for both visual (photographs, testimonials, etc.) and biometric identification developed by the anti-piracy forces could help confuse pirates. It will then remain to find the competent court (and which agrees to judge them). (Maj) They will not be able to be tried in Belgium, assured the federal prosecutor's office through its spokesperson.

Judicial consequences… or not

While awaiting legal action, the defendants were treated for dehydration, exhaustion and malnutrition. One of them was suffering of an abscess on the wrist and will be operated on by the on-board surgeon ” we specify on the Belgian side. " Without the presence of the frigate, they would no doubt have could die ».

After 4 days of detention, the suspects were released off a Somali beach on Wednesday (December 19), in the early morning (4 a.m. local time), “ after examining the available evidence» we specify at Atalanta HQ (and available courts, we might add). “The Belgian magistrate on board the ship investigated and established that there is no link between the parties concerned and the perpetrators of previous acts of piracy against a ship flying the Belgian flag” we specify from the Belgian General Staff.

(*) a merchant ship from a German shipowner flying the Liberian flag, very discreet. No doubt due to the presence of private guards on board

(Update 1 and 2: details provided on the legal proceedings and the condition of the arrested suspects)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).