Since armed criminal gangs began attacking and hijacking ships in great numbers off the Horn of Africa more than four years ago, the United States has banded together with dozens of nations to combat piracy. International Naval patrols are safeguarding the shipping lanes of the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, and Indian Ocean, which are among the busiest in the world, while the United States is working with a broad range of diplomatic partners to stem piracy originating from northeastern Somalia.
With the capture of those suspected of such attacks at sea, the United States has also worked with regional and affected states to find an appropriate venue for prosecution of the suspects. As a result of this cooperation, more than 20 countries have joined in the effort to bring pirates to justice.
In the latest example of such cooperation, the Republic of Seychelles this month accepted and agreed to try 15 suspected Somali pirates who were detained by U.S. Navy personnel in January after they had seized an Iranian fishing boat, the AL MOLAI, and held its 13-member crew hostage for more than a month. Several pirates in this group also attempted to attack a cargo ship, the M/V Sunshine, that same day.
Seychellois officials said the move sends a clear signal that it will continue to do its utmost to combat piracy. Pirates frequently attack ships near the islands, about 1,500 kilometers southeast of Somalia. There are now some 66 convicted pirates in its prison system and another 37 suspects in detention awaiting trial.
The United States welcomes the decision of the Republic of Seychelles to accept the suspects. It marks another step forward in working with our international partners to see that pirates are brought to justice. It also underscores our commitment to promoting freedom of navigation worldwide. It is imperative that more nations step forward to prosecute pirates who have been caught attacking vessels that are flagged, owned and crewed by citizens of their countries.