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January 24, 2011

Malaysia to Try Suspected Somali Pirates

Malaysia has announced plans to prosecute seven Somalis accused of piracy, and South Korea is considering a similar move, in steps meant to deter piracy off the Horn of Africa.

Both countries announced their plans Tuesday, after capturing the suspects in two separate raids on hijacked vessels last week.

Malaysia says the seven suspects in its custody are being transported to Kuala Lumpur, where they will be turned over to police while authorities investigate an attack on a Malaysian ship.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan has told reporters it would be appropriate for the country to try five detainees it captured Friday.

But he did not rule out the more conventional measure of swapping the detainees for the crew of another captured ship.

Somali pirates are believed to be holding about 30 vessels and more than 700 hostages at the moment.  The pirates have made hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years hijacking and holding ships for ransom.

A German shipping company announced one of its vessels, the Beluga Nomination, was seized by pirates on Monday.

International naval patrols off the coast of Somalia have done little to stop pirates from attacking ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

In many cases, pirate suspects captured at sea are released.  However, a few countries have carried out prosecutions.  In November, a jury in the U.S. state of Virginia convicted five Somalis for attacking a U.S. Navy ship.

A German court is currently trying 10 Somalis on charges of hijacking a ship registered in the city of Hamburg.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.