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updated 12/5/2010 12:17:25 PM ET 2010-12-05T17:17:25

Dutch prosecutors announced Sunday they have launched a criminal investigation into five suspected Somali pirates for allegedly hijacking a South African yacht and plan to prosecute them in the Netherlands.

The five men, aged between 20 and 30 years, were being held on the navy ship Amsterdam, whose crew arrested them last month and were to be transported to the Netherlands later Sunday, the national prosecutor's office said in a statement.

The Yacht, Choizil, was hijacked off Tanzania's coast and later run aground by pirates on Nov. 7.

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A South African husband and wife were taken to land and were being held hostage, but the skipper remained on board and was later picked up by the French navy.

It was not the first time the Dutch have launched a case against Somali piracy suspects. In June, five Somalis were convicted of attacking a Dutch Antilles-flagged cargo ship with automatic weapons and a rocket-propelled grenade, in the first piracy case to come to trial in Europe in modern times.

The men were all sentenced to five years for the 2009 attack, which was foiled by Danish marines.

Another 15 suspected pirates detained by the crew of the Amsterdam have been released because of a lack of evidence.

Prosecutors said they can put the Somalis on trial because piracy is a crime under international law.

"The five Somalis are being prosecuted because there is an allegation of a successful act of marine robbery with victims and there is enough evidence against the suspects," the statement said.

Germany started its first piracy trial in hundreds of years last month in Hamburg, with 10 Somali men accused of attacking a German container ship. The suspects also were captured by Dutch marines and extradited to Germany in June.

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International efforts to have pirates tried in Africa faltered in November when a judge in Kenya's second-highest court said the country does not have jurisdiction to try pirates if attacks have taken place outside its waters.

Kenya is holding 123 piracy suspects for trial. Another 18 suspects have been convicted and sentenced in Kenya, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

The international community has depended on countries like Kenya and the Seychelles to prosecute pirates who attack off East Africa, in a lucrative crime wave that has flourished in recent years in the absence of stable government in Somalia.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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