The UK government has announced that its merchant vessels sailing around the Horn of Africa will now be allowed to carry armed guards to protect them from Somali pirates.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the step has been taken to combat the risk of shipping off the coast of Somalia, where 49 of the world’s 53 hijackings took place in 2010.

Under the plan, a legal ban would be relaxed, which will allow shipping companies to seek licence from the government to carry weapons on merchant vessels sailing off the Somalia coast.

The UK home secretary would be given the power to license armed guards for ships and the government claims that no ship carrying armed security has yet been hijacked.

According to reports, about 200 UK-flagged vessels regularly sail near the pirate infested Horn of Africa out of which officials estimate that about 100 of those would apply for the license to deploy armed guard on board.

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