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S. Korea expected to bring captured Somali pirates to Seoul for trial: official

All Headlines 20:06 January 23, 2011

SEOUL, Jan. 23 (Yonhap) -- The five Somali pirates captured alive by South Korea's navy commandos during a mission to rescue a hijacked cargo ship in the Arabian Sea are expected to be brought to Seoul for a trial here, a senior government official said Sunday.

"At first, we have been in consultations with neighboring countries (of Somalia) on how to hold them accountable. Unless that option is available, we will bring them here and prosecute them," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

"Currently, it seems not easy to hand over the captured pirates to a third country because the neighboring countries have been reluctant to do so, citing a lack of capacity and costs."

South Korean elite forces stormed the 11,500-ton Samho Jewelry, which had been taken hostage by 13 Somali pirates since Jan. 15, in an operation about 1,300 kilometers off northeast Somalia on Friday, rescuing all of the 21 seamen and killing eight pirates.

The five captured pirates have been detained in an isolated room of a South Korean destroyer escorting the freed Samho Jewelry, officials said.

Neighboring countries such as Kenya, Yemen or Oman can prosecute captured Somali pirates in their courts, but South Korea has no pact with those nations to handle the issue of seized pirates, the official said.

South Korea will make a final decision on Thursday, when the Samho Jewelry arrives in the northeastern Omani port of Muscat, according to the official.

Seoul's Justice Ministry and Maritime Police are also in the process of reviewing legal matters over the captured pirates, the official said.

The rescue operation came about two months after the release of a Korean supertanker, held captive by Somali pirates for seven months, in exchange for a hefty ransom reported to be more than US$9 million. The incident alarmed South Korea that the country's ships were becoming a target for the pirates.

During the Friday rescue, the South Korean skipper of the Samho Jewerly sustained a gunshot injury to his stomach from a pirate's bullet, but his condition is not life-threatening, military officials said.

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