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The Patino attackers: simple fishermen or pirates? The Court decides

(BRUSSELS2) THENational Court convicted six Somalis of piracy for attacking the Spanish military ship Patino on the night of January 12 to 13, 2012, and sentenced them, Wednesday (October 30), to 8 years in prison — 12 1/2 years for the leader, convicted of belonging to a criminal organization —. The interest of this case is to give some details on all the means undertaken by the investigators to provide evidence on the function of the occupants of the skiff.

The second judgment in Spain

The King's prosecutor, Teresa Sandoval, had requested 23 years in prison for each of the six accused: Mahou Elfaf Hamou, Mohamed Hassan Absullah, Absullah Issa Issa, Ahmed Said Mohamed, Mohamed Abdillah Gouled and Mohamed Mohamed Aden. This is not the first judgment of this kind in Spain since the Alakrana pirates had already been sentenced in 2011 (Read: Alakrana kidnappers sentenced to 25 years in prison). But it is the first since the reintroduction of the crime of piracy into the Criminal Code.

Lost at sea?

The Somalis had clearly pleaded before the judges (Madrid) that they were “ simple fishermen and were not armed » as one of them said in Spanish, a language he learned in detention. According to the Spanish press (Efe in El Mundo et El Pais), they indicated coming “ from a very poor village in Somalia (and) not be pirates or terrorists » and headed towards the Spanish ship to “ ask for help, because they were lost and hungry "after a week adrift". That's when “the crew shot at them without warning.” 

Another story, crew side

The captain and the two other Spanish sailors who testified during the first session of the trial explained that they had noticed the presence of pirates and their intention to board the ship, probably. These are the pirates who started shooting and the crew tried to repel the aggression » indicates the commander who was not, however, present during the action. “ It was about a quarter past seven local time, an hour before dawn. I was in my room getting ready to go on deck when I received a call. I was informed that they had detected a skiff approaching and ready to install a ladder said the commander. " I heard bursts of gunfire for about 20 or 30 seconds. I finally tied my boots and headed out. When I arrived on deck, it was dark and complete silence (reigned) on the ship ", he added.

Outward signs of piracy

At dawn, the onboard helicopter went in search of the skiff, recording its movements, “ too small to be detected by radar ", according to the testimony of another officer. He detected it half an hour later but hidden by the waves, was lost, before finally being found. The helicopter camera recorded everything. “ The first thing that surprised us was that there were no fishing nets said Ricardo Giner, the ship's lieutenant and helicopter pilot. At approximately 300 meters, a burst into the air was fired. “ They didn't stop ". Then a second. The shooting left two injured in the Somali boat (another was injured during the boarding attempt).

Weapons…

According to the captain, in the boat there was an unusual quantity of fuel – around 300 liters – vacuum packed food and plenty of water, and all the usual signs of a “pirate action group” (PAG ), such as ladders and weapons. The pirates threw into the sea seven assault rifles and two rocket launchers (RPG type), three ladders and a plastic bag, as well as other unidentified objects.”

… a motor

Another sign: the four-meter-long canoe was not like other fishing boats. Too modern. In addition, it was equipped with a Yamaha 40 boat engine which was very powerful, and “ very expensive for simple fishermen ". The engine serial number is " very close to that of others of the same brand seized from other pirates in the region » explained Cubeiro. Investigators believe the attempted collision occurred " by mistake " because of the darkness of the night and that the pirates' intention was to hijack a merchant ship.

…revealing phone calls

Transcripts from the two cellphones found in the skiff show 12 numbers, which also appeared in other pirate arrests previously made by other boats in the Eunavfor Atalanta operation. Analysis of the cell phones also confirmed that the days before the attack on the warship received $19.000 to purchase weapons and utensils necessary for boarding.

Lire: The pirates attack… the flagship of Eunavfor (update)

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).