Shame as British Navy seizes 17 armed Somalis, gives them halal meat and nicotine patches... then sets them free!

Walking the plank was once a guarantee of preventing future offending by pirates. Why not now?

When a Royal Navy warship captured a crew of Somali pirates, it seemed like a rare chance to strike back at the ruthless sea gangsters. The 17 outlaws were armed with an arsenal of AK 47s and rocket-propelled grenades, and had forced hostages on a hijacked fishing vessel to work as slaves for three months.

But instead of bringing them to justice, the British servicemen were ordered to provide the pirates halal meals, medical checks, cigarettes – and in one case even a nicotine patch – before releasing them in their own boats.

The extraordinary treatment – revealed in a Radio 4 documentary to be broadcast tonight – came at a time when Somali piracy is causing mayhem to shipping in the Indian Ocean. More than £60million was paid in ransoms last year and pirates currently hold 30 ships and nearly 800 hostages.

HMS Cornwall is one of two Royal Navy frigates patrolling two and a half million square miles of ocean to try to capture pirate ships.

The apparent breakthrough came in February when the captain of a merchant ship crossing the ocean radioed to say he had seen something suspicious. A helicopter was scrambled and spotted a Yemeni fishing vessel which had been hijacked by pirates and was being used as their ‘mother ship’ to attack other vessels.

Armed Royal Marines launched boats and swooped on the pirates, who were found with nine AK 47s plus rocket-propelled grenade launchers and boarding ladders. The five slave crew from the fishing vessel were released and the 17 pirates initially detained on board the warship.

Commander David Wilkinson, Cornwall’s captain, said: ‘This team admitted their intention was to commit piracy activities.’ But after compiling the evidence against them and submitting it to his superiors he was ordered to ‘set up arrangements for putting them ashore in Somalia’.

Before being freed, the pirates were given a medical check-up in accordance with UK law and food which included a halal option to take into account religious needs. After showing they were compliant, some were given cigarettes, and one was given a nicotine patch on medical advice because his tobacco withdrawal had caused his heart rate to soar.

Close to shore, the British servicemen set them free in two skiffs which they had earlier seized from the gangsters – with no food and just enough fuel to get them to land.

As they stepped off the warship, Commander Wilkinson told the head of the pirate gang: ‘If you are a leader, go back and lead for good. ‘If you are going to carry on in this trade, expect to find me and my colleagues waiting for you. And if I see you again, it’s not going to go well.’

Commander Wilkinson added that he believed the order to free the pirates was the ‘right decision’ because he was not convinced bringing them back to the UK would have been a deterrent. He also said he was unconvinced that they had enough evidence to convict the pirates – even though they were heavily armed, were carrying hostages and had confessed.

The decision to release the pirates was made by the UK’s Maritime Component Commander based in Bahrain after considering UK policy and law.

Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham said the Government is reviewing the ‘catch and release’ approach to piracy. ‘It is not going to happen in the future unless there isn’t any other alternative.’



  1. I guarantee if the roles had been reversed we would be hearing about the murder and brutality of those men.

    I just don't understand why evil is rewarded?

  2. Hmm, sadly the Aussie navy is just as piss-weak...


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