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MADRID (Reuters) - The Spanish navy captured eight suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia on Sunday as part of Europe's anti-piracy mission in the area, the Defense Ministry said.
The Spanish frigate Victoria captured a whaleboat and various skiffs, on which the ministry said arms and other materials suitable for use in pirate attacks were discovered.
Under instructions from Europe's anti-piracy "Operation Atalanta," the Spanish navy destroyed the whaler and took its eight crew on a skiff toward the Somali coast, the ministry said in a statement.
Pirates operating off the coast of Somalia have stepped up hijacking attacks on vessels in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden in recent months, making tens of millions of dollars in ransom, despite the presence of dozens of foreign naval vessels.
European defense ministries agreed on Sunday to extend their anti-piracy mission in the area beyond 2010, Spain's Defense Ministry said in a separate note.
Operation Atalanta has so far dismantled 21 rings involving 250 criminals and destroyed 30 skiffs and 11 mother ships, including the capture earlier on Sunday, it said.
Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Mark Trevelyan