March 24, 2010 / 1:54 PM / 10 years ago

Somali pirate killed in cargo ship hijack shooting

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A suspected Somali pirate was killed during shooting between pirates and armed guards on board a Panamanian-flagged ship, a maritime official and the EU anti-piracy taskforce said on Wednesday.

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.

Somali pirates attacked a Yemeni oil tanker off the Yemen coast on Wednesday, but the Yemeni navy foiled the assault, the defense ministry said.

Navy and coast guard vessels engaged four pirate boats that had surrounded the tanker, which was carrying crude oil to the Yemeni port of Aden, and forced them to flee, a Yemeni Defense Ministry website said.

Marauding sea gangs have attacked ships in the busy lanes in the Gulf of Aden that link Europe and Asia for several years, earning ransoms worth millions of dollars from vessels captured.

In the attack on the MV Almezaan, a patrolling Spanish warship 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 caliber gunshot wounds,” it added.

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.

A fleet of foreign navies are patrolling the region’s 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.

Some shippers have already started to avoid the Gulf of Aden, sending vessels round the Cape of Good Hope despite the higher cost, while others have chosen to carry private guards.

On Tuesday pirates seized a Turkish ship with a crew of 21 and a Bermuda-flagged reefer with a crew of 25.

Reporting by Ibrahim Mohamed and Duncan Miriri; Additional reporting by Firouz Sedarat in Dubai; Writing by Richard Lough; editing by Tim Pearce

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