Five suspected Somali pirates, who were captured during a mission to rescue a hijacked ship, were brought to South Korea on Sunday and arrested on criminal charges, officials said.
The suspects, seized on January 21 during a South Korean naval raid on the freighter Samho Jewelry, arrived on a special flight and were sent to the southern port city of Busan, a Korea Coast Guard office spokesman said.
In a case likely to be closely watched by other countries tackling piracy, South Korean maritime police have formed a special team of 50 officials to deal with the country's first legal attempt to punish foreign pirates. The five were officially arrested for suspected maritime robbery, attempted murder as well as ship hijacking, the spokesman told AFP.
"We will carry out investigations for 10 days to collect all necessary evidence from the suspects, currently being detained in Busan," he said.
Piracy has surged in recent years off the coast of Somalia, a lawless, war torn country that sits astride one of the world's most important shipping routes leading to the Suez Canal. International warships patrol the area trying to clamp down on the problem, but most pirates caught at sea are freed almost straight away because there is nowhere to try them.
The captain of the Samho Jewelry, a 15,500-tonne chemical freighter hijacked on January 15, is in critical condition after being shot three times by pirates during the rescue mission.