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Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FYI -

TUES­DAY started as just an­other day off the Horn of Africa. The freighter Almezaan was beat­ing its way to­ward Mo­gadishu when pi­rates, op­er­at­ing off the So­mali coast, tried to board her. It would have been the third hi­jack­ing of the Almezaan, but this time, the United Arab Emi­rates own­ers of the ves­sel had put armed guards aboard. That has be­come com­mon in the pi­rate-plagued area, and so have ex­changes of gun­fire be­tween pi­rates and com­mer­cial ves­sels. When the So­ma­lis first turned to piracy, the hi­jack­ings were quiet af­fairs. The ship owner paid a ran­som and the ship and crew, un­harmed, were re­turned. Even when the growth of piracy brought a NATO task force to the wa­ters, the game con­tin­ued to be non-lethal. But on Tues­day, for the first time, a pi­rate was killed in the ex­change of gun­fire. Yet to be seen is whether the pi­rate’s death was a one-of-a-kind event, or a step on a steady road to war. War is an unattrac­tive al­ter­na­tive, be­cause stop­ping the piracy would re­quire a land cam­paign in East Africa, and no coun­try or al­liance is both will­ing to mount one and ca­pa­ble of do­ing it. But if the next step is the death of a sailor, ei­ther as a hostage or dur­ing a board­ing fight, the Suez Canal route will be­come an in­creas­ingly ex­pen­sive route, to the detri­ment of many coun­try’s economies. NATO will have to re­assess its rules of en­gage­ment.

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