UK seeks permission to attack Somali pirates


Britain has launched a drive for an international accord granting the Royal Navy and Western warships rights to enter Somali territorial waters in pursuit of pirate gangs linked to al-Qa’eda.

Pirate activity has soared off the Horn of Africa this year with the emergence of highly sophisticated gangs that use fast patrol boats, launched from “mother ships” to board cargo vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

The lucrative multi-million-dollar kidnap and ransom trade, which is dominated by al-Qa’eda, according to terrorism experts, threatens to disrupt international shipping lanes used to carry cargo from the Far East to Europe.

A meeting in London of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the United Nations’ watchdog of the seas, is to consider a resolution today instructing Somalia’s interim government to drop its legal right to block foreign navies from entering its waters.

A declaration would pave the way for Royal Navy vessels to rescue ships held for ransom in Somali coves or pursue pirates involved in attacks on ships in international waters.

A spokesman for the regional naval command in Bahrain said that passage of the IMO resolution would be an important step to “help deter piracy off the coast of Somalia”.

There have been 26 attacks or attempted boardings by pirates so far this year, up from a handful in 2006. Somalia has been plagued by civil war. It has seen a succession of weak, temporary administrations run by warlords or hard-line Islamic factions sympathetic to al-Qa’eda, unrecognised by the international community and with little remit on the coastline.

Pirates used the haven provided by Somalia’s lack of leadership to defy 46 warships from 20 countries in the international coalition centred around America’s Bahrain-based 5th fleet.

“Piracy has become a lucrative business based on ransom demands and cargo theft inside Somali territory,” said Cdre Keith Winstanley, the deputy commander of the coalition. “It has not been possible to suppress it because vessels pirated, sometimes a long way off the coast, are held somewhere in the vicinity of the Somali coast.”


What took them so long. This has been an ongoing problem for years and there is no reason that efforts to stop the pirates should be confined to the high seas. Somalia is certainly in no position to protest. Can you imagine the Royal Navy asking for permission to chase pirates in the 1800s?


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