Spain allows armed guards on ships in danger zones

Spain passed a law allowing armed security guards on board vessels in dangerous waters such as the Indian Ocean, where a Spanish fishing vessel was captured by Somali pirates almost a month ago.
Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega told journalists after a cabinet meeting the new law would apply to Spanish-flagged ships outside Spanish waters to guard against risk to people and property.
“Security may be offered by guards using authorised weapons suitable for effectively complying with prevention and protection duties,” she said.
Fernandez de la Vega said that the government was working on all fronts to free the 36-member crew of the Alakrana, a tuna-fishing vessel captured by pirates on Oct. 2.
Two of the suspected pirates were captured by a Spanish naval ship and have been brought to Spain to face trial on charges of terrorism and robbery.
One of the kidnappers told Reuters on Oct. 13 that they would not negotiate the release of the Alakrana until their two colleagues in Spain were freed.
Proceedings against one of the suspects have been delayed due to doubts he is old enough to face trial in the high court.
Many pirates have escaped prosecution because of doubts over the jurisdiction where they are captured or because Western governments fear they will try to claim asylum if brought to their countries for trial.
Last year crew members of another Spanish boat were freed by pirates in the area after a $1.2 million ransom payment, according to a Somali official.
Pirates have plagued busy shipping lanes off the coast of Somalia for several years. Foreign warships from 16 nations are in the area to try to prevent hijacks, but the sea gangs are now hunting for ships far into the Indian Ocean.
The gangs some made up of former fisherman angered by the presence of foreign fishing fleets in Somali waters and their backers within Somalia and abroad have made tens of millions of dollars in ransom payments.
Pirates boarded a Thai-flagged fishing boat off the east African coast last week and last week captured a British couple aboard their yacht near the Seychelles archipelago.

Pic: Somali pirates