By Daniel Woolls
MADRID, October 10, 2009 Ė -- Spain is working to secure the release of
a Spanish tuna trawler hijacked in the Indian Ocean with a crew of 36
but the ordeal could drag on, the defense minister said Monday.
Pirates seized the ship Alakrana on Friday about 375 nautical miles off
the east coast of Somalia. On Monday it was anchored near an undisclosed
Somali port, said its owner, Echebastar Fleet. The Defense Ministry had
said Sunday it was actually moored at a port.
Also Monday, Istanbul-based Horizon Shipping said Somali pirates had
released the MV Horizon-1, a Turkish cargo ship held for about three
months in the Gulf of Aden. The company said the pirates received a
ransom but did not specify the amount.
All 23 crew members were in good health, a company official said. The
ship was hijacked July 9 in the Gulf of Aden, near Somalia.
While the Spanish tuna trawler was still on the high seas, two alleged
hijackers left it in a skiff and were captured by Spanish naval forces
while heading for shore. One was shot and slightly wounded. Spanish
forces are taking part in an EU anti-piracy flotilla.
A Spanish judge requested Sunday that those two suspects be sent to
Madrid for investigation on charges of piracy and terrorism. Spanish
news reports say there are still 11 pirates in control of the ship.
All 36 crew members are in good condition and unharmed, Defense Minister
Carme Chacon told Spanish National Television.
She dodged a question on whether the Spanish government would consider
paying a ransom.
"We are studying all options, legal ones, of course. We are
strengthening all fronts, the diplomatic one, investigation,
intelligence and also that of military pressure," Chacon said.
Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos spoke Monday with Somalia's
prime minister, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, who promised to help
secure the vessel's release, Moratinos' office said in a statement.
Chacon noted that a hijacked German freighter was held for nearly four
months before being freed in August. And the Spanish trawler Playa de
Bakio, seized in April 2008, was held for a week before the Spanish
government reportedly paid a euro1.2 million ransom.
"So we can assume this might go on longer than the Playa de Bakio,"
Chacon said Monday.
Chacon said there have been 126 pirate attacks and 44 hijackings in the
region this year.
Echebastar Fleet said many of the Alakrana's crew members were allowed
to phone home Sunday.
Cristina Blach, daughter of the Alakrana's skipper, Ricardo Blach, told
the newspaper El Faro de Vigo that her father called twice.
"In the first call, my father said that they were all right and being
treated well, and that we should stay calm." She said she told her
father "to do everything the pirates say."
When the pirates attacked, the ship had its nets deployed so it could
not react quickly, she added, quoting her father.
Manuel Garcia Gomez said his son, Jose Antonio Garcia Alvarez, a crew
member, called home and said he expected the drama to be over in two or
"At least now I can swallow my food and sleep a bit," Garcia Gomez told
Sixteen of the crew members are Spanish. The rest are from Ghana,
Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Senegal and the Seychelles.
Source: The Associated Press, Monday, October 5, 2009