South Korea charges five Somali pirates over freighter hijacking

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BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA: Five Somali pirates on Friday were charged with maritime robbery and attempted murder in South Korea for their role in the hijacking of a freighter last month, the Yonhap news agency reported.

The five Somali nationals were detained during an operation of the South Korean naval commando to rescue the 11,500-ton chemical carrier which was hijacked in the Arabian Sea last January.

The operation successfully saved all 12 crew members while eight pirates were killed. The freighter's captain, Seok Hae-kyun, sustained several gunshots during the January 21 gunfight with the pirates.

The Busan Prosecutors' Office on Friday filed charges against the detained Somali nationals and informed that after the 18-day investigation it was determined that the five detainees were also involved in the kidnapping of a ship last year.

"We have discovered that some of the pirates in the Samho Jewelry case were also involved in the kidnapping of the Samho Dream," said Jeong Jeom-shik, special team's chief investigator.

The Samho Dream was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2010. The 12 crew members were held hostages in Somalia until a $9 million ransom was paid last November. The Samho Jewelry and Samho Dream are owned by Samho Shipping, a company based in the southern port city of Busan.

The twelve Samho Dream crew members identified the five Somali pirates as part of the hijackers of their ship. Under South Korean law, the pirates face a sentence of at least five years in prison for hijacking and life imprisonment or death penalty for attempted murder.

The attempted murder charge stemmed as at least one of the pirates shot Captain Seok at point-blank range. The South Korean captain is expected to begin to breath on his own next week.

Captain Seok sustained three bullet wounds. The investigation showed that two fo those bullets turned out to be stray bullets fired by South Korea's Cheonghae Unit during the operation.

However, the critical wound was caused by an AK-rifle, allegedly fired by 23-year-old pirate Arai Mahomed at point-blank range. The five defendants have denied shooting at the captain.

In addition, the alleged pirates claimed that supporters provided financial assistance, equipment and food as well as a ship owner and a kidnapping negotiator. However, only the pirates' captain and vice leader knew the identity of those individuals but were killed during the raid.

(BNO NEWS )

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