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Military forces soon to protect Italian ships from pirates

ROME, Oct 11 – Military forces are soon to be stationed on Italian merchant vessels, Italy’s shipowners association Confitarma said Tuesday, the day after pirates hijacked a cargo boat off Somalia.

“The protocol will be signed today between the Confitarma president Paolo d’Amico, and Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa. Stationing military forces on board ships should follow soon after,” a Confitarma spokesperson told AFP.

Italy gave the go ahead in July for ships to carry military forces or private armed guards to protect them against pirate attacks, but a number of clauses and protocols have to be finalised for the law to become operational.

Under the law adopted in July, “military guards of members of private security forces will be taken on board on demand and at shipowners’ expense… in international maritime areas at risk of piracy,” the spokesperson said.

Pirates have hijacked several Italian vessels this year.

On Monday, five armed men attacked an Italian cargo ship and its 23 crew members — seven Italians, 10 Ukrainians and six Indian nationals — off eastern coast of Somalia.

While there were four Italian security guards aboard, they were unarmed and served as look-outs for potential attacks, according to Italian media reports.

On April 21 Somali pirates captured an Italian cargo ship headed for Iran with 21 crew on board, including six Italians, in the Arabian Sea near Oman.

And in February, pirates wielding rocket-launchers seized a large Italian oil tanker with a crew of five Italians and 17 Indians east off the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean.

After that attack, Italy’s Confitarma called for ships to have armed guards aboard.

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