The island nation of Seychelles said Tuesday it has agreed to accept 15 Somali pirate suspects from U.S. military custody for prosecution.
The announcement followed an agreement between Seychelles President James Michel and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that the two nations would continue to collaborate in the fight against piracy.
"We appreciate the Seychelles' regional leadership on counter-piracy, as seen in their willingness to prosecute and incarcerate Somali pirates," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement from Washington.
"The successful resolution of this incident marks a positive step forward for building a strong and unified international response against piracy originating from Somalia and for promoting freedom of navigation worldwide," she said.
The 15 pirates in this case were detained by the U.S. Navy on Jan. 5 in an operation that also rescued 13 captive Iranian fishermen.
The Seychelles is a crucial linchpin in the fight against piracy and will soon host a regional intelligence coordination center to combat the crime. In addition, the U.S. military flies aerial surveillance drones from the island nation.
A top Seychelles official, Joel Morgan, said the prosecution would send a clear signal to pirates that they can't attack ships with impunity. About 20 percent of the roughly 500 prisoners in the Seychelles are Somali pirates.