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Private security guards shot and killed a Somali pirate during an attack on a merchant ship off the coast of East Africa in what is believed to be the first such killing by armed contractors, the EU Naval Force spokesman said Wednesday.

The death comes amid fears that increasingly aggressive pirates and the growing use of armed private security contractors onboard vessels could fuel increased violence on the high seas. The handling of the case may have legal implications beyond the individuals involved in Tuesday’s shooting.

“This will be scrutinized very closely,” said Arvinder Sambei, a legal consultant for the U.N.’s anti-piracy program. “There’s always been concern about these (private security) companies. Who are they responsible to?”
The guards were onboard the MV Almezaan when a pirate group approached it twice, said EU Naval Force spokesman Cmdr. John Harbour. During the second approach on the Panamanian-flagged cargo ship, which is United Arab Emirates owned, there was an exchange of fire between the guards and the pirates.

An EU Naval Force frigate was dispatched to the scene and launched a helicopter that located the pirates. Seven pirates were found, including one who had died from small caliber gunshot wounds, indicating he had been shot by the contractors, said Harbour.

A statement by the Spanish Ministry of Defense said the warship Navarra had intercepted two skiffs and a larger vessel believed to be a pirate mothership. Spanish forces arrested the six remaining pirates, took custody of the pirate’s body and sunk the larger boat, it said.

The two smaller skiffs had many bullet holes in them, the statement said. Spain was trying to reach the Somali government to hand over the body and get the cargo ship’s crew to identify the detained suspects as their attackers. Spain was also trying to reach the ship’s owner so formal charge of piracy could be laid and the detainees turned over to the Seychelles or Kenya under an agreement the two countries have with the EU.
Sambei said the case could become legally complicated. Investigators would have to establish who had jurisdiction — the flag the vessel was flying, its owners or the nationality of the contractors — and who was responsible for the security contractors in order to set up an independent inquiry, she said.

Source: AP News

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Private security guards shot and killed a Somali pirate during an attack on a merchant…