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Gunfire from Spanish trawler thwarts pirates

Armed private security guards on board a Spanish tuna trawler fired warning shots to chase off pirates during an attack in the Indian Ocean, the trawler’s owners said Monday.

“Two ships approached the trawler and the private security crew who were on board fired warning shots into the air to drive them away,” said a spokeswoman for the Echebastar company which operates the fishing boat, Capolibre Alai.

In May the same trawler, one of three which the Basque company operates in the Indian Ocean, escaped another pirate attack in the waters off Madagascar.

Spain allowed Spanish fishing vessels operating in the area to have armed security guards on board after a trawler, the Alakrana, and its crew of 36 were taken hostage for more than a month off the coast of Somalia.

They were freed after paying a ransom of four million dollars (2.9 million euros), according to the Somali pirates who had captured them.

Piracy has long been a problem in Somalia, where the lack of a functioning government over most of the last 15 years has allowed its vast coastline to be turned into a perfect refuge for criminal gangs.

Their attacks have threatened shipping using one of the world’s busiest maritime routes to the Suez canal to the north.