Pirates with AK-47s Edge Japan to Lift Gun Ban on Tankers

Pirates wielding rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s have prompted Japan to ease a samurai-era ban on civilians carrying guns, allowing guards on locally registered oil tankers to be armed for the first time.

Shipping companies will be able to place security personnel with guns on the tankers when sailing through specified areas of the Indian Ocean and in and around the Gulf of Aden, where pirates have collected hundreds of millions of dollars by hijacking ships. The change in the law, which became effective Nov. 30 and only applies to oil vessels, marks the first time Japan has authorized civilians to carry automatic weapons.

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Japan hauling pirates to Tokyo to face trail

Japan plans to transfer to Tokyo four pirates who attacked an oil tanker off Oman and were captured by US and Turkish forces, so that they can face trial, media reports have said.

The Japanese-owned oil tanker the Guanabara was attacked on Saturday in the Indian Ocean about 400 nautical miles east of Oman, according to Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, the operator of the tanker registered in the Bahamas.

The pirates were seized by US and Turkish naval units Sunday. None of the 24 crew, all of whom are non-Japanese, was injured and there was no oil or petroleum product leak from the 57,462-ton ship, the company said.

The crew of the tanker, which was en route from Ukraine to China, included 18 Filipinos and two nationals each from Croatia, Montenegro and Romania.

Japan now plans to bring in the suspects to face trial, the first time it would make use of a 2009 anti-piracy law, Jiji Press and other media reported.

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