Spain rules out marines on fishing vessels

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Defence Minister Carme Chacon says Spanish law and lack of troops stationed outside of Spain make it impossible for military personnel to be placed on every trawler.

Madrid – Spain is unable to put marines on every Spanish trawler to protect them from pirates off Somalia, as France can, Defence Minister Carme Chacon said Monday.
She was responding to criticism that Madrid is failing to do enough to protect Spanish fishing vessels after Somali pirates on Friday seized the tuna boat Alakrana and its 36-member crew.

Spain is doing all it can to secure the release of the vessel, currently at anchor several nautical miles off the coast of Somalia where it is being monitored by two frigates, she told TVE public television.

But she said there were two reasons why the Spanish government could not put marines on fishing boats.

"First of all, the law," she said. "Legally it is not possible" for the Spanish military to be assigned to guarding private property.

"There is a second reason," she added. "From an operational point of view, it is impossible for some ships to be protected by individual military personnel."

France is able to put marines on to its fishing boats because doing so is allowed under French law and because it has 3,000 troops based in Djibouti, which borders Somalia, she said.

"Spain has 3,000 troops stationed around the entire world," she added.

Chacon urged Spanish trawlers to use security firms that can provide private protection.

Spanish public prosecutors meanwhile have requested that two pirates who are believed to have taken part in the hijacking of the Alakrana who were detained by the Spanish navy forces over the weekend be sent to Madrid for investigation on charges of piracy and terrorism.

The two were captured after they left the fishing trawler in a skiff. One was shot and lightly wounded.

Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told reporters that Madrid would host a summit on Somalia when it holds the presidency of the European Union during the first half of next year.

Moratinos spoke Monday with Somalia's prime minister, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, who promised to help secure the vessel's release, Moratinos' office said in a statement.

In April 2008 a Spanish tuna boat and its crew were held by pirates near Somalia for six days. The government has not confirmed information that a ransom of USD 1.2 million (EUR 750,000) was paid.

AFP / Expatica

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