Somali pirates like life in S. Korea: report

Members of a Somali pirate gang forcibly taken to South Korea after a high-seas commando raid prefer the quality of their jailhouse accommodation to life back home, a report said Tuesday.

File photo of suspected Somali pirates arrested by French soldiers in the Gulf of Aden.

One of the detained suspects, 21-year-old Serum Abdullah, had even asked for investigators to let him stay in South Korea, Dong-A Ilbo newspaper reported, citing a police investigator.

"Other Somali suspects also said the South Korean jail was better than decent hotels in Africa," the investigator was quoted as saying.

Another unidentified suspect told Yonhap news agency: "Korean food was better than I thought and the bed was comfortable. Korea seems to be a good country."

A maritime police spokesman in the southern city of Busan said the Somalis were receiving "humane treatment" including extra heating and clothes to cope with a bitter cold spell.

"We've provided them with meals of steamed rice, tofu and kimchi (a spicy cabbage dish) but without pork... they devoured them all and seemed to like it very much," he told AFP.

Police have also provided basins to allow the suspects to wash before the five daily prayers mandated in Islam.

In a case likely to be closely watched by other countries tackling piracy, South Korean maritime police have formed a team of 50 officials to deal with the country's first legal attempt to punish foreign pirates.

The pirates hijacked a South Korean chemical tanker in the Arabian Sea on January 15, but the ship and its crew were rescued by South Korean naval commandos in a dramatic raid six days later.

Eight pirates were killed while all 21 crew were rescued -- eight South Koreans, two Indonesians and 11 from Myanmar. Police say the pirates shot and critically wounded the ship's South Korean captain, Seok Hae-Kyun.

The Somalis have been formally arrested for suspected maritime robbery, attempted murder and ship hijacking.

The five could face life in prison if convicted of shooting the Samho Jewelry's captain. If Seok were to die, they could theoretically be sentenced to death, although South Korea has carried out no executions since 1997.

Maritime police in Busan, where the five were flown Sunday, said Tuesday they would check three bullets removed from Seok's body against weapons seized from the gang, and also check fingerprints on the guns.

Police said in a statement the leader and deputy chief of the pirate gang were among those shot dead.

They said Arai Mahomed, a prime suspect in the shooting of Seok, had vehemently denied the accusation and said he never touched the gun.

Meanwhile seven accused Somali pirates, captured by Malaysian forces in a raid to free a hijacked oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden, arrived Monday in Malaysia to face possible trial.

Source: AFP

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