Suspected pirates are being interrogated on board minelayer Pohjanmaa
Finnish authorities are considering the launch of preliminary investigations
The Finnish Navy’s flagship, the mine-laying vessel Pohjanmaa, currently taking part in the EU-led Operation Atlanta anti-piracy naval campaign in the Horn of Africa, apprehended 18 suspected pirates in the Arabian Sea early on Wednesday morning.
On Tuesday, the Pohjanmaa had been tasked with searching for a support vessel suspected of pirate operations, which an American maritime surveillance aircraft had spotted.
When the Finnish Pohjanmaa intercepted the vessel, it was proceeding at a rather slow speed of 5 to 7 knots.
The minelayer had chosen to approach the pirate vessel from such a direction that the sun was right behind the Finns.
When the pirate vessel tried to flee the scene, the Pohjanmaa fired a few warning shots, whereafter the seizure of the suspect vessel took place without resistance.
Nobody was injured, nor was any material damage caused during the capture operation.
On Tuesday, pirates had attempted to capture a Singaporean tanker in the same area, but they had failed.
During the incident, the vessels had fired at each other, but as far as is known neither of them suffered any material damage.
According to Commander Pasi Staff of the Navy Command Finland, a detachment from the Pohjanmaa confiscated material on board the suspect vessel, including rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles, as well as handguns and ammunition.
However, the items that had apparently been thrown overboard during the initial chase remain unaccounted for and unknown.
According to Staff, the suspects are being taken good care of on board the Finnish Pohjanmaa.
For example, they have received two Qur’ans. The suspects have also undergone a medical examination, as their vessel was in an extremely bad state.
At present, the minelayer Pohjanmaa is carrying on its patrolling in the area. The roughly 30-metre-long "mother ship" or support vessel is being towed, while the two smaller ”skip boats” allegedly used for raids have been hoisted onto the deck of the Finnish minelayer.
The arrested crew members of the captured vessel are being interrogated with the help of Somali language interpreters.
After the interrogations, Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation is to assess whether or not a preliminary investigation will be launched into the incident, reports Detective Superintendent Teijo Ristola.
The assessment will be made in cooperation with representatives from the Office of the Prosecutor General.
If a preliminary investigation is launched, it will proceed in accordance with the statutes of Finnish legislation.
Ristola says that a decision on the matter will be made as soon as possible.
”When it comes to a preliminary investigation, the most significant question is whether something has happened that would justify launching a Finnish preliminary investigation. This issue is still under consideration”, Ristola notes.
Ristola does not even know the age or nationality of the detainees.
”At this stage, it is not necessary to find out the age and nationality of the suspects, as they might never be subjected to a preliminary investigation”, Ristola adds.
If Finland decides not to start a preliminary investigation, the EUNAVFOR Commander will make a decision on whether or not the extradition of the suspects to a third country is to be launched.
The decision on extradition will be made by the EU authorities not Finland, stresses Military Lawyer Antti Lehmusjärvi, the legal counsel in the naval operation.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Minelayer Pohjanmaa arrests suspected pirates in Atalanta operation off Oman coast (6.4.2011)
Pohjanmaa joins anti-piracy effort off Somalia (7.2.2011)
Pohjanmaa sets sail for Somalia (7.1.2011)
Operation Atalanta (Wikipedia)
FNS Pohjanmaa (Wikipedia)