Spain ends Atalanta command with no hijackings, 29 pirates caught

Yibuti, Apr 6 (EFE).- Spain has passed to Portugal the command of the Atalanta, a European naval vessel for fighting piracy in the Indian Ocean, which it has held for the past four months, during which time there were no hijackings, nine attacks were aborted and 29 pirates were captured.

The deck of the Spanish combat frigate Mendez Nuñez, anchored in the port of Djibouti, was the setting for the change-of-command ceremony, in which Spanish Rear Adm. Pedro Garcia de Paredes handed over responsibility for the Atalanta to his Portuguese colleague, Commodore Jorge Novo, ship's captain of the Alvares Cabral.

While the Spaniards were in command, piracy dropped significantly. At the time the Spanish military took over last December, five ships carrying 136 people had been hijacked, while today there are only two commandeered vessels with 60 people aboard, the Spanish rear admiral said.

According to Garcia de Paredes, Spain leaves the command with "the satisfaction of having done its duty and of a job well done."

In that regard, he added that during these four months 29 pirates were captured, of whom 21 were handed over to the judiciary in the Seychelles and Mauritius, while another eight were freed on the Somali coast due to the lack of enough evidence to prosecute them.

He also said that nine attacks were aborted and currently only two vessels remain in the hands of pirates, both under flags of convenience and whose liberation is complicated because they lack the support of any nation or international shipping line.