The US Navy Fifth Fleet said today it has released nine Somalis suspected of piracy in the Gulf of Aden after it did not find enough evidence to prosecute them.
The nine were arrested on February 12 after an Indian-flagged vessel sent a distress call reporting that it been fired upon at night by a small skiff and that pirates were attempting to board, the Bahrain-based US Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement.
The suspects were arrested in the "general vicinity" of the Premdivya as they were found in possession of weapons and equipment commonly used to facilitate pirate attacks, it said.
But due to "inconclusive evidence to support their prosecution", the Navy decided to turn over the nine to the coastguard in the breakaway Somali region of Puntland on Monday "to facilitate their safe return to shore."
Seven other suspected pirates will remain in US Navy custody as "details of their transfer are finalised", the statement added, without giving further information.
More than 100 vessels were attacked last year by pirates in the Gulf of Aden which is now patrolled by naval warships from the United States, EU and other countries to protect vessels in the vital waterway.