A suspected Somali pirate was killed during shooting between pirates and armed guards on board a Panamanian-flagged ship, a maritime official and EU anti-piracy taskforce said on Wednesday. Pirates on Tuesday seized a Turkish ship with its crew of 21 and a Bermuda-flagged reefer with a crew of 25.
The private guards protecting the MV Almezaan returned fire as they beat back two attacks by the same gang off the coast of lawless Somalia on Tuesday. Some reports have suggested the shooting marks the first time since the upsurge in pirate attacks in recent years that private contractors have killed to defend cargo shipping.
A Spanish warship patrolling the waters deployed a helicopter that fired warning shots to stop the pirates as they fled the area. Spanish troops seized six individuals, recovered one body and destroyed three pirate vessels.
“The body has been transferred to NAVARRA,” EU NAVFOR said in a statement on its website, referring to the Spanish frigate. “An investigation indicated that the individual had died from small callibre gunshot wounds,” it added. (The Globe & Mail)
The MV Almezaan was en route to the Somali capital Mogadishu, the statement said. Kenyan maritime official Andrew Mwangura confirmed the incident by telephone from the port city of Mombasa.
Marauding sea gangs have attacked ships in the busy lanes of the Gulf of Aden that link Europe and Asia for several years, earning ransoms worth millions of dollars from vessels captured. A fleet of foreign navies are patrolling the waters, operating convoys and offering safe transit corridors. But they have found themselves increasingly stretched as the pirates roam further out into the Indian Ocean.
Pirates are known to use fire-arms and rocket-propelled grenades in their attacks on ships but rarely harm the crew of vessels they capture. Several organizations, including the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), have expressed concern that the use of armed security contractors could encourage pirates to be more violent when taking a ship.
Some shippers have already started to avoid the Gulf of Aden, opting to go around the Cape of Good Hope, raising transport costs, while others have chosen to carry private guards.
Somalia has not had a functioning government for nearly two decades and analysts believe that the attacks on shipping will continue as long as there is no central government capable of taking on the pirate gangs.