Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Sunday, 3 May 2009 16:33 UK

Somali pirate suspects captured

Captured Somali pirate suspects on board the Nivose
Some of the pirate suspects were taken on board a French frigate

Fourteen suspected Somali pirates have been captured in separate operations by a French frigate and the Seychelles coast guard.

French commandos on the frigate Nivose caught 11 suspects some 900 kms (560 miles) off the Somali coast, the French Defence Ministry says.

The Nivose is reported to have alerted the Seychelles authorities to help them capture the other three.

Somali pirates are currently holding nearly 20 ships for ransom.

On Saturday a Greek-owned ship with a Ukrainian crew was hijacked by Somali pirates south-west of the Seychelles, a seafarers' group says.

On the same day a Portuguese warship thwarted an attack on a Norwegian vessel in the Gulf of Aden.

Moving south

According to the French navy, the commandos on the Nivose used fast outboard vessels and a helicopter to detain the 11 Somali suspects who were on three vessels, the AFP news agency reports.

A helicopter from the Nivose hovers above pirate suspects
A helicopter from the Nivose hovers above pirate suspects

It is not clear what will happen to them. In earlier cases pirate suspects have been sent for trial in Kenya or to Somalia's semi-autonomous region of Puntland or to France.

The Nivose is part of the European Union's operation to protect shipping in the Gulf of Aden. In April it captured 11 presumed pirates off the coast of Kenya.

As foreign navies have stepped up efforts to capture pirates in the Gulf of Aden they have moved further south , operating more in waters of the Seychelles.

The Seychelles government says three more pirates were captured on Sunday.

"The three men identified themselves as Somali. They were travelling in a six-metre skiff with several barrels of fuel and water onboard," a Seychelles presidential statement said, AFP reports.

Somalia has been without a stable government since 1991, allowing piracy to flourish. The problem worsened in the first months of 2009.

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