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Somali Pirates Convicted In Spain

Published Oct 31, 2013 4:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

Spain’s National Court in Madrid handed down sentences today ranging from 8-12 ½ years for six Somali’s implicated in a 2012 attack on the Spanish naval vessel the Patino

The six accused, Mohamed Abdullah Hassan, Mohamed Aden Mohamed, Issa Abdullah Issa, Abdillahi Mohamed Gouled, Mohamed Said Ahmed and Hamoud Elfaf Mahou, were all convicted on charges of piracy and arms possession and Hamoud Elfaf Mahou was sentenced to an additional four years for the charge of membership in an armed group. 

The six Somalis were arrested in January of 2012 after a shootout with the Patino, a Spanish Navy supply ship that was part of the EU’s Atalante operation against piracy in the Indian Ocean. The men attempted to board the Spanish ship in the early morning hours armed with AK-47s and grenades. After the Somalis opened fire on the Spanish sailors, the Spanish fought back causing an exchange of gunfire that lasted about two minutes and caused the pirates to flee the scene. 

The Patino, accompanied by a Spanish naval helicopter, then pursued the Somali motorboat, finally apprehending the suspects about an hour after the initial attack. 

Due to the darkness at the time of the attacks, investigators have speculated that the pirates may have mistaken the Spanish Navy vessel for a freighter and that the attack on the Navy may have been inadvertant. 

During their trial, the six Somalis claimed that they were fishermen who had approached the Spanish vessel in distress. They had also stated that the Spanish ship had been first to open fire and that they had only started shooting in defense.

The prosecution had originally asked for 23 year sentences citing strong evidence linking the men to well established piracy networks in the region. The evidence included cell phones containing the numbers of known pirates and evidence of a large deposit made so that the six men could purchase weapons and equipment for the attack. 

Piracy along the Somalia coast reached its peak in 2011, but attacks in this region have since been on the decline due to increased surveillance and punishment for crimes in this area. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that there were only 17 attacks in the first nine months of 2013. By comparison, there were 99 reported attacks in the same period for 2012. 

Photo Courtesy of AFP