Page 2 of 2   <      

U.S. Lays Out Anti-Piracy Plan

A photo from the French Defense Ministry shows French military teams in two dinghies, right, intercepting a vessel east of the Mombasa, Kenya, port.
A photo from the French Defense Ministry shows French military teams in two dinghies, right, intercepting a vessel east of the Mombasa, Kenya, port. (Ecpad Via Associated Press)

The region off the Horn of Africa poses the world's most serious piracy problem today, with 122 attacks last year, 80 of which were successful in that pirates took control of the ships. About 33,000 ships transited the Gulf of Aden last year, according to Pentagon data. Dozens of pirate attacks have occurred off the east coast of Somalia since March, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Somalia's piracy problem is especially grave because the country lacks a strong government and security forces to tackle it -- in contrast to countries in Southeast Asia, where the Pentagon helped combat piracy in the Strait of Malacca in recent years.

"There was a huge piracy problem around the Strait of Malacca," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday in a speech to officers at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala.

The Pentagon pushed training teams and new equipment to aid the navies of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. "The problem in Somalia is that we don't have governments like we had in Southeast Asia," Gates said.

This week, Clinton said, the State Department will dispatch an envoy to an international Somali peacekeeping meeting in Brussels aimed at helping Somalia police its own territory. "We will press these leaders to take action against pirates operating from bases within their territories," Clinton said.

An international contact group on piracy will also hold meetings to improve coordination of naval patrols in the region and explore freezing pirate assets. A State Department team will press Somali government officials to act against pirates on land and will work with the shipping industry to address self-defense measures.

In a separate incident yesterday, French naval forces captured 11 pirates in the Indian Ocean after foiling their attempt to hijack a Liberian-flagged cargo ship, the French Defense Ministry announced.

The Liberty Sun attack slowed the return home of Phillips, who was on board the Bainbridge when it was diverted. White House officials said several of the families of the Maersk Alabama crew members were given a tour of the White House yesterday.

Staff writers Greg Jaffe and Michael D. Shear contributed to this report.


<       2

© 2009 The Washington Post Company