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Cablegate: Seychelles Captures Somali Pirates After Attack On Coast

VZCZCXRO0430
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHGI RUEHJO RUEHMA RUEHMR RUEHPA RUEHRN RUEHTRO
DE RUEHPL #0402 3421246
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081246Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY PORT LOUIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4878
INFO RUEHZO/AFRICAN UNION COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RHMFISS/COMDT COGARD WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/COGARD INTELCOORDCEN WASHINGTON DC
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0375
RHPIGXW/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS PORT LOUIS 000402

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

AF/E FOR MARIA BEYZEROV
L FOR JENNIFER LANDSIDLE
LONDON FOR AFRICA WATCHER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PBTS MARR KPIR SE
SUBJECT: SEYCHELLES CAPTURES SOMALI PIRATES AFTER ATTACK ON COAST
GUARD VESSEL

1. (SBU) The Office of the President of Seychelles has announced
that on December 6, officers of the Seychelles Coast Guard (SCG)
arrested 11 Somali pirates, after the pirates opened fire on the SCG
vessel Topaz. According to Joel Morgan -- Minister of Environment,
Natural Resources and Transport and Chairman of the High Level
Committee on Piracy -- the operation occurred 225 nautical miles
North West of Mahe, the main island of Seychelles. Trial of the
pirates in the Seychelles is anticipated, with the seizure of pirate
weapons as part of the arrest expected to improve significantly the
chances of successful prosecution.

2. (SBU) According to the Presidency's press release, information
regarding the possible pirate activity was initially transmitted to
the SCG December 6 by one of two EU/NAVFOR P-3 surveillance planes
operating out of the Seychelles. The Topaz moved to the indicated
position and encountered an Iranian fishing vessel. The SCG crew
boarded, searched and cleared the vessel, and then resumed patrol
activities. Around 1945 hours, the Topaz radar indicated "several"
skiffs approaching. The skiffs opened fire on the Topaz, and the
SCG vessel returned fire, disabling the skiffs. 11 Somali pirates
were arrested, along with "diverse arms and weaponry." There were
no casualties during the operation.

3. (SBU) In a conversation with the DCM, Jean Paul Adam, Secretary
of State at the Presidency, reported that the Topaz arrived in
Victoria, capital of the Seychelles, at 1015 hours December 8 and
that the 11 suspected pirates are being held temporarily at a local
police station. Seychelles authorities believe that the pirates
will not be safe if placed with the general prison population and
are thus ensuring separate detention facilities for the Somalis.

4. (SBU) Adam speculates that the pirates may have believed the
Topaz was a commercial vessel, and thus attacked it. He also
considers it possible that some of the pirates panicked and shot at
the Topaz as it approached. According to Adam, once the Topaz
returned fire the pirates immediately surrendered. Communication
with the pirates is difficult, as the Seychelles authorities have no
Somali translator immediately available. Translation support is
expected soon from the UNODC.

5. (SBU) Adam sees prosecution of this piracy case as clear, since a
Seychelles vessel was attacked and weapons used in the attack were
seized. Adam expressed surprise that the pirates did not throw their
weapons overboard -- as is usually the case -- and thus destroy
evidence and make prosecution more difficult.

6. (SBU) The CCE element on ground in Seychelles spoke with Captain
Attala, a Seychelles Coast Guard officer, who confirmed Adam's
opinion that the Somalis were likely unaware the ship they were
attacking was a Coast Guard vessel, as the attack on the SCG ship
occurred after dark. Attala's account differs slightly from that of
the Presidency. According to Attala, the SCG encountered three
vessels, one of which turned and ran once Topaz fired warning shots
at the boats. Of the two vessels that stopped, SCG captured four
Somalis on each skiff. The Topaz continued to search for the other
skiff and subsequently found the mother ship, with three Somalis
onboard, which the SCG also captured. The Coast Guard found and
confiscated weapons, cell phones, nd GPS equipment on the other
ship. Photos of the captured skiffs can befound at the following
link: http://www.intelink.gov/go/77668


WALKLEY

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