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Taiwan charges Chinese captain over killing of 'Somali pirates'

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image captionThe Chinese suspect was captaining a Taiwanese fishing vessel at the time of the shootings

Prosecutors in Taiwan have charged the captain of a fishing boat with ordering the killing of four suspected Somali pirates eight years ago.

The four were shot dead in the Indian Ocean in September 2012.

The killings came to light after mobile phone footage of the incident was posted online.

Prosecutors say the suspect, a Chinese national, admitted ordering the killings while captaining the Taiwanese vessel.

The suspect said the alleged Somali pirates shot at his boat and three other boats fishing in the area, before one of the fishing boats managed to knock the men into the sea.

Despite knowing the men had no way of defending themselves at this point, the suspect told officials he ordered his Pakistani security guards to shoot them so that they could not get away and ask other pirates to hijack his vessel, prosecutors said.

The suspect has been indicted on homicide and gun control charges, according to local media reports.

The killings were exposed after a mobile phone containing footage of the incident was left in a taxi in Fiji, and found by someone who posted the video on YouTube in 2014.

In the video, four men can be seen in the water, some clinging to debris, as some 40 rounds of ammunition are fired at them. A man is heard giving orders in Mandarin.

Campaign groups have argued for years that the incident highlighted issues with lawlessness at sea, and a lack of regulation in Taiwan's fishing industry.

According to local media reports, prosecutors have recommended a relatively lenient sentence because the alleged pirates opened fire first.

Homicide carries a minimum 10-year sentence in Taiwan.

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In 2016, a Taiwanese man held hostage with his fishing crew by Somali pirates for four-and-a-half years spoke to the BBC following their release.

media captionThe hostages cooked and ate snakes and scorpions to survive

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