Somali pirates attack two ships, hold North Korea crew hostage

Somali pirates attacked a Ukraine ship and Singapore-operated vessel with a North Korea crew. With the end of the monsoon, piracy is on the upswing.

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Pirates off the coast of Somalia have attacked two more vessels, the European Union's naval force stated Tuesday. While a Ukrainian cargo ship managed to escape, a Singaporean-operated chemical tanker with a crew of 28 North Koreans has been hijacked.

News of these latest attacks in the Somali basin comes a day after a Spanish judge indicted two suspected Somali pirates on counts of kidnapping and armed robbery.

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According to the BBC, the chemical tanker was hijacked by pirates late on Monday.

The Christian Science Monitor reported last month that Somali pirates are targeting ships around the Seychelles in an effort to avoid US and European naval patrols.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian cargo ship, the MV Lady Juliet, aided by the EU naval force (Navfor) detachment protecting the ship, successfully fought off pirates in the Gulf of Aden, adds the BBC. The pirates, who were armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades, were deterred by return fire from the Navfor escort.

But the Associated Press reports that Gedi Ali, a Somali who claims to be a spokesman for the pirates, alleged on Tuesday that pirates had managed to capture the Ukrainian ship.

These latest attacks come as legal proceedings against suspected pirates are underway in Europe. On Monday, a Spanish judge in Madrid indicted two suspect Somali pirates on 36 counts of kidnapping – one for each of the 36 crew of a Spanish fishing boat that are being held captive off the Somali coast – as well as armed robbery, reports CNN. The suspects were scheduled to appear at a hearing on Tuesday.

CNN adds that owner of the Spanish ship and relatives of the kidnapped crew members have asked the Spanish government to return the pirate suspects to Somalia in exchange for the release of the crew.

Last month, US maritime officials said that hijacking incidents by Somali pirates had decreased by more than 90 percent since 2008, reported Voice of America News. Between July and September last year, pirates in the area captured 17 ships. In the same period this year, they captured only one, thanks to better self-protection measures by merchant vessels and increased cooperation between the navies of 12 nations. But officials are also warning of more piracy now that the monsoon is over.

Pirates operating off the Somali coast have captured more than 50 ships this year and are currently holding 12.

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