South Asia

Somali pirates handed over to Indian police

Somali pirates captured in Indian ocean were paraded with their faces covered
Image caption Analysts say pirates increasingly operate off the coast of India

A group of 28 suspected Somali pirates captured in the Indian Ocean on Sunday have been handed over to police in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay).

They were apprehended aboard a Thai fishing trawler by the Indian navy and coastguard. Twenty-four fishermen held since last April were also rescued.

The pirates are due to appear in court in Mumbai.

Piracy in the Indian Ocean has been on the increase as pirates seek to avoid naval patrols elsewhere.

The men were shown to media aboard an Indian coastguard vessel with their hands and feet bound and cloths covering their faces.

This is thought to be among the largest group of pirates to be captured.

The pirates had demanded a ransom of $9m (£6m) for the release of the 24 fishermen after they hijacked the Thai trawler last April.

Indian officials said that the fishing vessel was being used as a "mothership" to launch other attacks in the Indian Ocean.

Assault rifles

The Commander of the Indian Coast Guard, Inspector General SPS Basra, warned that the attacks by pirates off the Indian coast have become increasingly more violent.

"In the recent times, Somali pirates have mounted attacks within 250 to 300 nautical miles off the coast of India.

"The level of force used by pirates over that period has shown an exponential increase, as well as it is more brutal and lethal."

Officials recovered AK-47 assault rifles and various other weapons from the vessels.

Inspector General Basra also said the surveillance of the Indian Ocean would have to be stepped up as naval patrols in busy shipping lanes off the Horn of Africa had led pirates further afield.

In January 2010, 15 suspected pirates were captured near the Lakshadweep Islands off the coast of the state of Kerala. They are now facing trial in India.