Thursday, April 16, 2009

Kenya 'will try Somali pirates'

Eleven Somali pirates captured this week by a French warship are being taken to Kenya for trial, the French defence ministry has said.

The pirates will be tried under an agreement between the EU and Kenya, French officials said.

They were captured by a warship from an EU force deployed to tackle a recent surge in piracy.

Meanwhile, Somalia's prime minister warned in a BBC interview that pirates could only be defeated on land.

They would always find ways of evading patrolling warships, he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

'International tribunal'

The French warship Nivose captured 11 pirates on Wednesday about 550 miles (900km) east of the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

On Thursday, a French defence ministry spokesman told AFP news agency that it was expected to arrive in Mombasa within four days.

Its speed was limited by the fact that it was towing captured pirate vessels, he said.

In the past year, French forces have captured more than 71 suspected Somali pirates, and killed three others, AFP reports.

Fifteen of the pirates are awaiting trial in France because they attacked French ships.

Most of the others have been handed over to the authorities in Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

In recent months Britain, the US, and the European Union have signed memorandums of understanding with Nairobi that Kenya will act as a kind of international tribunal for pirate crimes.

Several Somali pirates turned over by the US and Germany are already facing legal action there.

Short of funds
Despite anti-piracy patrols being conducted by various countries, attacks against ships have increased in the past few days.

Pirates have vowed to avenge the deaths of those killed in recent rescue operations by US and French forces.

Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke warned that international patrols could not defeat piracy.

"I think the best way to actually fight the piracy is to tackle these things from the land," he said.

"You cannot tackle piracy from the sea no matter how many naval ships you put into the waters. These pirates will try to move."

Mr Sharmake said Somalia was formulating a rapid reaction force that would stop pirates before they got to the sea, but he acknowledged that his country was having difficulty raising funds to bolster its security structure.

"So far we have not been successful in getting [sufficient] financial support," he said.

"We're trying to actually be a self-reliant country, we are trying to generate as much as we can through our own ports, throughout the country and also from our property tax and in land."

Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991 and Islamist insurgents control much of the south and centre of the country.