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Somali pirates demand Spain frees two before talks

world Updated: Oct 13, 2009 16:35 IST

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Somali pirates holding a Spanish fishing boat will not negotiate its release until their colleagues facing hijacking charges in Madrid are freed, a member of the gang said on Tuesday.

The two men, due in a Madrid court on Tuesday, were caught by the Spanish navy in the Indian Ocean shortly before the Alakrana, a tuna boat, was captured with its crew of 36 by pirates on Oct. 2.

Patrols by foreign navies have failed to stop hijackings by heavily armed Somali pirate gangs in the shipping lanes that link Europe to Asia.

"We decided that we shall not negotiate about releasing crew and vessel until our two comrades are freed and brought back safely to Haradheere," Hassan Abdulkadir, one of the pirates holding the Alakrana, told Reuters by telephone.

Haradheere is a pirate stronghold north of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Abdulkadir, who said he was a relative of one of the two Somalis in Madrid, said the Alakrana's crew members from Spain, Indonesia, Seychelles, Madagascar and Senegal were safe.

The Spanish government has sought help from the government of Somalia to help free the fishing boat.

In May, a Spanish court tried to bring a group of suspected Somali pirates to Spain but eventually surrendered them to Kenya.

Many pirates have escaped prosecution because of doubts over the jurisdiction of where they are captured or because Western governments fear they will try to claim asylum if brought to their countries for trial.