Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Commercial Ship Strikes Back in Deadly Shootout with Somali Pirates

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Commercial Ship Strikes Back in Deadly Shootout with Somali Pirates

Article excerpt

The attack by Somali pirates on the MV Almezaan Tuesday, in which one pirate was killed, highlights how more commercial ships are hiring private armed security groups for protection.

Private security guards protecting a commercial ship shot dead a Somali pirate Tuesday, the first recorded incident of its kind.

The pirate attack on the Panamanian-flagged MV Almezaan occurred off the coast of Somalia, and comes at a time when increasing numbers of commercial ships are hiring private armed security units to protect them during their passage through the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea. While US and French Navy crews have killed Somali pirates before during hostage rescues on the high seas, today's shooting shows that the Somali piracy problem is potentially growing more violent.

"This could be the beginning of a violent period," says E.J. Hogendoorn, head of the Horn of Africa program at the International Crisis Group's office in Nairobi. "If [the pirates] see guys with shiny barrels pointing at them, they might fire first."

The waters off Somalia are among the most dangerous sea lanes in the world, but Somali pirates have begun venturing far afield - to the Seychelles Islands and the waters of India - as a 20-ship combined force of European Union and United States Navy ships patrol the Somali coast. For every pirate attack that is repelled, and every pirate crew arrested and pirate ship destroyed, there are estimated to be hundreds more that continue to operate freely.

Somalia has had a piracy problem almost from the day that its last functioning government, that of President Siad Barre, was overthrown in 1991, beginning two decades of near anarchy. The inability of Somali authorities to control their own territory, including fishing seaport towns, gives criminal syndicates a haven to launch attacks on shipping lanes and to hold captured ships hostage for months. …

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