It’s a reminder that the apparent shift in Africa’s piracy epicenter from to the Gulf of Guinea may be deceiving. Reuters and other new sources report that pirates aboard a ship held hostage fired on an Italian helicopter injuring the pilot. One of the shots sent a piece of canopy plexiglass shrapnel flying into the pilot’s neck. According to the sources he has since been able to call his family to reassure him of his condition.
The helicopter originated and returned to ITS San Giusto, a San Giorgio-class Dock Landing Ship (LPD) that serves as the flagship of EUNAVFOR’s counter-piracy mission, Operation Atalanta. San Giusto typically carriers Sea King SH-3D and Agusta Bell AB-212 helos. While the former has typically a greater range, the latter more often serves as a recon platform. The identity of the pirated vessel from which the gunfire originated is also unknown.
According to an EU spokeswoman, “the helicopter of San Giusto did not respond to the gunfire in order to not endanger the safety of any hostages onboard the vessel.”
While we have attempted to learn from the noticeable decline in piracy over the past half year, it’s a reminder to be mindful that such success could be reversed.