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Spain Says 36-man Crew On Hijacked Boat Safe

A trawler hijacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean has been spotted by navy aircraft and the 36-man crew is safe, the Spanish government said Saturday.

Defense Ministry spokesman Constantino Mendez said a Spanish frigate was due to arrive to shadow the tuna-fishing vessel later in the day.

The warship Canarias was expected to sight the fishing boat before the pirates could reach port in Somalia, the ministry said.

The boat, the Alakrana, was boarded by Somali pirates early Friday when it was working waters 800 miles away from the nearest navy escort, the government said in a statement.

The government has set up a team headed by Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega alongside representatives of the defense, foreign, interior and environment ministries to work toward the tuna fishing vessel's liberation.

The team met Saturday to decide a strategy and the defense ministry said all options for resolving the hijack were open.

Ship owners of the remaining 17 Spanish boats fishing in the area have sent instructions for them to move further off shore or return to port, the fishing organization Cepesca said.

Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, Spain's former justice minister and the current president of the European Union's civil liberties commission, said that Europe relies on a strong NATO presence to police waters off East Africa but still needs to find an effective way to deal with piracy.

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