EU naval officer: Piracy in Somali Basin "surges"

10:45, May 15, 2010      

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The European Union (EU) naval force protecting shipping off Somalia said on Friday that the number of pirate ships operating between the Seychelles and the Somali coast has skyrocketed in the last three months.

"This season, between February and May, we have seen a huge surge in the number of vessels put to sea to conduct pirate acts," Rear Admiral Peter Hudson of the EU Naval Force Somalia Operation told reporters.

The EU force, along with NATO and others, has interrupted and dismantled over 60 pirate groups and processed roughly 400 suspected pirates in the last 12 weeks alone -- three times the number of piracy groups recorded last year, the admiral said.

The main task of EU Navfor's Operation Atalanta is to escort merchant vessels carrying World Food Program (WFP) humanitarian aid and to protect vulnerable ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

Pirates are being increasingly caught further from the Horn of Africa, sometimes as far 1,500 kilometers away, which is far nearer to India than it is to Africa, said Hudson.

Meanwhile, the Gulf of Aden, which is a strategic artery for shipping, has seen a "significant" dip in piracy-related acts, said Hudson, noting the number of attacks is down from about 20 a month to around four or five.
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