Maritime group seeks increased patrols in Somalia.

Halkaan ka akhri


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — 31 March 2009 — A maritime watchdog Tuesday urged an international naval coalition patrolling the waters off northern Somalia to extend its watch to the country’s eastern and southern coasts.

The warning came amid a spike in attacks in the area. The latest attack occurred late Monday, when pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns at a South Korean bulk carrier off eastern Somalia. The vessel managed to escape after carrying out evasive maneuvers, the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center said.

Since March 22, pirates have attacked 10 ships off eastern and southern Somalia, hijacking two of them, said Noel Choong of the piracy center in Kuala Lumpur. In contrast, he said, there was only one reported attack in the Gulf of Aden, to the north of Somalia, because of the international anti-piracy task force protecting those waters.

As a result, pirates have turned their attention to easier targets — ships in unpatrolled waters off Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since 1991.

“We call upon the international coalition to also send warships to the east and south of Somalia to help curb increased attacks in the area,” Choong said.

More than a dozen warships — from countries including Britain, India, Iran, the United States, China, France and Germany — are now patrolling the Gulf of Aden.

A total of 54 ships have been attacked in Somali waters this year, including seven that were hijacked, he said. Pirates are still holding eight vessels and 151 crew members for ransom.

Sourse AP

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