The Sri Lankan vessel, ‘Lorenzo Putha-04,’ is berthed at the Seychelles Coast Guard Base. (Seychelles News Agency)
Six Sri Lankan fishermen, who were rescued by the Seychelles Coast Guard after being held hostage by Somali pirates who were also arrested, arrived on the main island of Mahe on Wednesday morning.
The director for operations at the Seychelles Coast Guard, Major Hans Radegonde, told reporters that they received reports that piracy had started again in the region since late last year.
“Now we are noticing that piracy is becoming more frequent than last year and the area where they are operating is closer to Seychelles waters. Our operation remains the same as it was. We’ve always been on alert; we’ve never let our guard down,” he said.
Radegonde clarified that they received word about the incident from the Sri Lankan Navy on Saturday and the operation to free the hostages took place on Monday after the vessel entered the Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone, which is 1.4 million square kilometres.
“We got word on Saturday afternoon and we already had planes and boats patrolling that area at the time, so immediately we went to the location where the boat was supposedly highjacked. This was outside our EEZ at around 400 to 500 thousand nautical miles northeast of Mahe. It took us about one day and a half to track the boat and observe the route it was taking. At that point, we saw that they entered the Seychelles’ EEZ at about 180 thousand nautical miles away from Denis Island,” he explained.
|The three Somali suspects were handed into police custody upon arrival. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
Radegonde said, “After a preliminary inspection, we observed that the people on board the boat were armed, and the closer we got, we were able to confirm that they were Somali pirates. They resisted for about five to six minutes and would not stop their boat. They even fired shots at the Coast Guard. But this was quickly put under control. This was a delicate operation, especially with hostages involved, thankfully we did not have any casualties.”
The Sri Lankan vessel, ‘Lorenzo Putha-04,’ is berthed at the Seychelles Coast Guard Base while the three Somali suspects were handed into police custody upon arrival.
Present at the arrival was the Sri Lankan High Commissioner, Srimal Wickremasinghe, who congratulated the Seychelles Coast Guard on the successful rescue operation.
“We are currently negotiating with the government of Seychelles on the procedures, but as soon as possible our nationals will return to Sri Lanka. In regards to the three Somali pirates, the negotiations are still ongoing so I can’t comment,” said Wickremasinghe.