Somali pirates were undeterred Saturday as a new European Union naval forces readied to launch an operation aimed at curbing relentless attacks that have rattled world maritime trade.
The EU’s anti-piracy drive, dubbed Atalanta, was to formally kick off on Monday, increasing the military presence in the Gulf of Aden, which has in recent months become the world’s most dangerous stretch of water.
The Gulf of Aden commands access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, a key trade route between Asia and Europe, and Atalanta will attempt to reassure shipping companies.
Pirates equipped with speedboats, assault rifles and rocket launchers, have carried out more than 100 attacks since the start of the year.
They have raked in tens of millions of dollars in ransom money after hijacking foreign vessels, from luxury yachts to the Sirius Star, a 330-metre crude carrier which is still being held.
Arguing that foreign fishing fleets have for years plundered Somali fishing resources illegally, pirates have secured strong support from the coastal communities in a country ravaged by conflict and starvation.
“The presence of European war ships will undermine the Somalis’ ability to protect their natural resources from illegal fishing,” said Mohamed Said, a pirate leader whose group has held the Saudi super-tanker Sirius Star for ransom since November 15.
European warships passing through the Suez Canal on their way to ant-piracy patrols near Somalia. A spate of high-profile hijackings by Somali pirates has spurred western navies into action but experts argue that a handful of warships can do little to stamp out the lucrative piracy business.(AFP/Po Luigi Cotrufo)
“Many of the polluters of Somalia’s waters, those who dump toxic waste, are Europeans. This force will contribute to giving them unimpeded access to our waters,” he told AFP.
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Somali Pirates Sail Scary Cultural Seas
By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 6, 2008; Page C01
The Somali pirates even have a spokesman. He has been giving interviews by satellite phone from the bridge of the Ukrainian arms vessel they captured in September. This fall, the pirates have been snatching a couple of ships a week, including a Saudi oil tanker longer than three football fields — the largest ship ever taken in the history of piracy.
While ransom negotiations drag on, great navies confront their own impotence and international shipping is expensively rerouted, let’s skip to likely upcoming chapters in the saga of the Somali pirates.
Will the next sleeper hit at Sundance feature a flawed-but-dashing hero with a bandanna and a Kalashnikov, a love interest back in Mogadishu and a misunderstood mercenary ex-stevedore from Baltimore?
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