Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 14:41 UK

Somali vigilantes capture pirates

Pirate (File photo)
There has been a surge in piracy in recent weeks

Somali vigilantes have captured 12 armed pirates in two boats, as coastal communities begin to fight back against the sea raiders.

Regional leaders at Alula and Bargaal in Somalia's northern Puntland region told the BBC they have put together a militia of fishermen to catch pirates.

They decided to act as they were fed up with their fishing vessels being seized at gunpoint by the ocean-going bandits.

Meanwhile, the Seychelles said it had arrested nine suspected pirates.

The men were intercepted by a Spanish frigate near the Indian Ocean archipelago on Monday.

They are accused of firing on Saturday at the Italian cruise ship the Melody - which had more than 1,500 passengers - in an attack repelled by Israeli security guards.

"They are now in detention in a prison cell of the Seychelles police force and are expected to be charged and tried in the islands," Seychellois President James Michel's office said in a statement on Tuesday, reported AFP news agency.

Somali pirates have hijacked 25 vessels since the beginning of this year and are holding more than 260 crew around the stronghold of Eyl in Puntland, according to the International Maritime Bureau.


They decided to confront... the problems of the sea piracy
Traditional leader Faarah Mohammed

Now frustrated regional leaders have taken the law into their own hands.

One of them, Faarah Mohammed, told the BBC: "There is a security committee set up by the communities who live in Bargaal and Alula.

"And they decided to confront whatever was creating problems in their areas and particularly, the problems of the sea piracy.

"And eventually their effort led to the capture of three boats and 12 men with their weapons. One boat got away."

The BBC's Somali Service says the militia will have to hand the pirates over to the local authorities.

Somali pirates could face the death penalty under recent get-tough measures announced by the internationally recognised but unsteady Somali government.

Navies from Nato, the EU, Russia, Japan, China, India, Yemen, US Malaysia and Singapore have been patrolling the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden in an effort to deter the gangs.

But some regional leaders say the foreign navies are protecting foreign fishing boats and allowing them to continue scooping up the fish-stocks that once provided Somalis with their livelihoods.

The lucrative lobster trade with Dubai is said to have collapsed after the foreign boats' giant trawler nets damaged the fragile coral that is the crustaceans' habitat.

As a result some fishermen decided to become pirates, but it appears that the local communities are now turning against these activities, says BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut.

When first loaded, the map's focus falls on Somalia where most of the pirates are based. Use the arrow icons to scroll left towards Europe and the United States which are both playing a central role in tackling the problem.

Scroll to the right for a story about the Philippines, which supplies many of the world's mariners.

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