VICTORIA, Seychelles (eTN) – The Seychelles Coast Guard has arrested 9 suspected Somali pirates during a joint military operation with European and Indian forces at the northern edge of 1. 3 million square kilometer Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), that borders with Somali waters.

A Spanish navy frigate, the Numancia, intercepted a skiff carrying nine suspected Somali pirates, and with the help of French, Indian and Seychelles naval Forces the boat was followed and successfully seized on Monday afternoon.

The Seychelles Coast Guard vessel PS Andromache arrived in Port Victoria early Tuesday morning, with the 9 men onboard, who are suspected of committing the gunfire attack on the Italian cruise ship the MSC Melody on 26th April, in an area about 200 nautical miles north from the main islands of the Seychelles archipelago.

Seychelles President James Michel has praised the Seychelles officers in charge of the operation on their success in apprehending the men. President Michel also congratulated the Spanish and French Forces, part of the joint European Union naval forces Atalanta, and the Indian ship INS Nirdeshak for the timely response to the Seychelles request for assistance.

“We need to protect and safeguard the Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone, and we thank the European and Indian Forces for helping us in the joint operation to apprehend the suspected pirates,” he said.

“While the attack took place far away from the Seychelles islands and posed no danger to its citizens, it is imperative that the territorial waters of the Seychelles remain safe for all leisure, fishing and commercial vessels passing through the area,” emphasized President Michel.

The president also added that international cooperation was the key to fighting piracy at sea and that there was a need for continued vigilance in the area.

Incident Operations Officer of the Seychelles Coast Guard, Captain Jean Attala said that news of the attack on the luxury cruise liner MSC Melody was received in the early hours of April 26th. Three aircraft were then deployed; a French surveillance plane Falcon, a Spanish helicopter from the warship Numancia, and a Seychelles Coast Guard aircraft, and started a search for the pirate boat, given precise coordinates by the MSC Melody during its attack.

“The Seychelles plane sighted the pirates, and then each plane took turn in marking the target by staying in the air, until the other unit arrived on scene to relieve the other,” said Captain Attala.

The Seychelles Coast Guard aircraft spent a total of 5 hours in the air to mark and photograph the pirate skiffs before handing over the position to the Spanish helicopter.

The PS Andromache then reached the pirate boat and arrested the 9 men onboard. They are now in detention in a prison cell of the Seychelles Police Force, and are expected to be charged and tried in the Seychelles islands.