NAIROBI, Kenya — The European Union's anti-piracy force will move some
surveillance aircraft further south from the Gulf of Aden to help
counter the spread of Somali pirates into Indian Ocean waters, the
force's operation commander said.
The monsoon period ends in four to six weeks and pirate attacks are
expected to increase sharply. Earlier this year, pirates expanded their
range hundreds of miles south of Somalia, partly in reaction to the
increased naval presence in the Gulf of Aden.
"What we really need are eyes in the south," Rear Admiral Peter Hudson
told The Associated Press. "The Kenyan armed forces have been hugely
supportive to us, in giving access to their airfields, in giving support
to navy ships that visit."
He plans to rotate some of the surveillance aircraft — currently in
Djibouti at the western end of the Gulf of Aden — into Kenya's Mombasa
port, following a series of high-level meetings over piracy with Kenyan
officials. The move will increase the aircraft's range by hundreds of
France, Germany and Spain have aircraft based in Djibouti, as do Japan
and the United States. The U.S. also used unmanned drones to monitor
maritime traffic and potential pirate activity. The aircraft support
around 30 warships in the Gulf of Aden that escort food shipments to
Somalia and patrol a designated corridor for commercial shipping.
Kenyan military spokesman Bogita Ongeri said he could not give details
of the discussions, but that Kenya was eager to help stop piracy.
"Many of our East African neighbors depend on Mombasa port for their
goods," he said. "We will work with anyone to secure our trade and stop
War-ravaged Somalia is a deeply impoverished nation and enough pirates
have received multimillion dollar ransoms to encourage hundreds of other
poor, heavily armed gunmen to try their luck. But although attacks have
increased, their success rate has declined, partly due to naval
intervention in the gulf and partly due to better awareness and
preparation on the part of merchant seamen.
Hundreds of attacks have been carried out this year already — including
one on a Yemeni oil tanker pursued by 14 boats on Tuesday — and around a
dozen ships are still held in Somalia. Hudson said it appeared
negotiations were taking longer than previously as insurance companies
hardened their stance, and there was a risk the pirates might take out
their frustration on their captives.
When the Dutch Antilles-flagged Marathon was released recently, the ship
had been internally gutted. One Ukrainian crew member was killed in the
attack and another was injured, although the circumstances of the injury
Source: Reuters, July 23, 2009