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Five Somalis detained in Spain after alleged navy attack

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(MADRID) - A group of Somali suspected pirates were in jail in Spain Saturday pending trial following an attack on a Spanish warship, authorities said.

The group of six men arrived in the country late Friday after they were arrested off the Somali coast January 12.

Spanish navy officials say the men had opened fire at the support-and-combat vessel Patino, which was taking part in a European Union security mission.

A high court judge on Saturday ordered five to be detained ahead of their trial. The sixth remained in hospital for treatment of foot wounds, though he too was expected to be placed in custody, officials said.

The men are charged with several crimes including attempted piracy and disobeying a warship. A trial date was not immediately set.

The five who were in court all denied having attacked the Spanish warship with grenades and assault rifles, insisting instead they were starving fishermen who had approached the Patino for help after spending three weeks without eating.

When the court was shown a military video of the men allegedly throwing weapons overboard, the Somalis said they were merely dumping garbage bags into the sea.

The Patino operates under the EU's Operation Atalanta, a multinational mission to protect ships in the perilous shipping route off the coast of Somalia, where hundreds of seamen have been taken hostage.

The Patino eventually returned fire against the Somalis, who said another in their group was killed.

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