Is Seychelles turning a blind eye to pirates?
The overwhelming public impression of the Seychelles is of idyllic tropical islands, untouched by the troubles of a turbulent region, and highly popular with upmarket Western tourists.
But the islands have also become popular with pirates displaced from waters further north in the Gulf of Aden by a 40-strong international naval flotilla.
Rising concern over the presence of these pirates led the European Union to invest €1m (£900,000) to bolster the country's legal infrastructure; the US deployed "drone" spotter planes in the islands; and French and Russian warships patrolled the area.
However, security companies have reported that the government of the Seychelles has done deals with the pirates which would allow them to operate as long as they do not affect the interests of the Seychelles.
One example of this, it is claimed, was the government's release of 11 Somalis arrested after the attempted hijacking of two French tuna trawlers. The men were captured by the Seychellois coastguard vessel, Topaze, following information from a spotter plane of the EU's anti-piracy task force Atalanta, earlier this month, but then swiftly released.
The government of Puntland, a breakaway region of Somalia, complained when two Seychellois light aircraft landed on its territory and freed 23 Somali pirates. The plane and the crew were released after paying a fine.
The Seychellois government denies any deal with the pirates. But Iderat Maritime, a leading shipping security company which lists Major-General Julian Thompson, the former commander of the Royal Marines, as one of its directors, stated that the government has probably reached an "understanding" with the pirates. Information from within Somalia appears to confirm this.
Christopher Ledger, vice-chairman of Iderat Maritime, said: "These reports have been quite persistent and need to be looked at. We are not saying that the abduction of [Paul and Rachel Chandler, the British couple who were kidnapped by Somali pirates last week] had anything to do with any such links."
The Seychellois government says it is taking action against the pirates and the President, James Michel, has authorised the deployment of extra troops.
Noel Morgan, a cabinet member and head of the High-Level Committee on Piracy, said: "The Seychelles Peoples' Defence Force will act as a deterrence force to any approaching pirate vessels, and our forces will complement the Seychelles and international naval forces in the region. We have 1.4 million square miles of ocean and for this reason it is a greater challenge to guarantee the security of our waters alone."
The most direct sign of Western involvement is the stationing of the 36ft MQ-9 Reaper drones, the size of jets. The aircraft are fitted with infrared, laser and radar targeting, can fly up to 16 hours and are capable of carrying a dozen guided bombs and missiles.
- 1 Reader dilemma: 'My boyfriend jokes about putting photos of us having sex on Facebook'
- 2 Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta clashes with President Obama on LGBT equality: ‘Gay rights is really a non-issue’
- 3 37-year-old black woman found dead in police custody
- 4 Kanye West praises Caitlyn Jenner on I Am Cait: 'You couldn't have been up against more'
- 5 Five-year-old boy forced classmate to simulate oral sex at primary school, claims mother
Mystery over deaths of 3,000 Napoleonic soldiers in mass grave has been solved
Global Peace Index: Ukraine tops list of countries with the worst relations with neighbours
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, 71, still enjoys 'an early morning joint' for breakfast
Denmark bans kosher and halal slaughter as minister says ‘animal rights come before religion’
The 9 charts that show the 'left-wing' policies of Jeremy Corbyn the public actually agrees with
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
The last thing Labour needs is a leader like Jeremy Corbyn who people want to vote for
What the Labour party could look like under Jeremy Corbyn
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Competitive: Guru Careers: We are seeking Account Managers to join a Digital C...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading end-to-end provide...
£15000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent Sales Executive an...
£18000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Does this sound like you? - Fri...