Somalis accused of piracy are charged in South Korea

Image caption,
The five young suspected pirates say they were following orders from their boss

Prosecutors in South Korea have charged five Somali men suspected of being pirates with attempted murder.

The charge can carry a sentence of life in prison, or death; lesser charges such as maritime robbery were also brought against the men.

The Somalis were seized when South Korean special forces stormed a cargo ship that had been hijacked by pirates last month.

The ship's captain was shot during the rescue; eight pirates were killed.

The Busan prosecutor's office said that Captain Seok Hae-gyun had suffered a life-threatening wound from a pirate during the raid on the South Korean-owned Samho Jewelry on 15 January.

He is a serious but stable condition.

"When the commandos launched their raid, Captain Seok was lying on the floor," prosecutor Jeong Jeom-Shik told reporters, adding Seok was hit by stray bullets from the commandos after being critically injured.

Malaysia has also sought to bring pirates before the courts, laying charges earlier this month against seven Somali pirates.

The US has sentenced a Somali pirate to nearly 34 years in prison; Germany and Spain have also put alleged Somali pirates on trial.

The Gulf of Aden, between Yemen and Somalia, is one of the world's busiest shipping routes and has become a hotspot for pirate attacks.

Forty-nine ships were hijacked in the area in 2010, and Somali pirates are currently reported to be holding 31 ships, with more than 700 crew on board.

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