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High Seas Piracy A Growing Threat


"The United States is very concerned about the increasing number of acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea, especially off the Somali coast," according to the U.S. Department of State. Piracy and armed robbery have disrupted trade in east Africa and threatened the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Somali people.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, there thirty-one ships were hijacked off the coast of Somalia last year, up from just two hijackings in 2004. This year alone, pirates have attacked everything from oil tankers to luxury yachts in the Gulf of Aden.

Pirates recently seized Spanish and French ships off the coast of Somalia and held their crews hostage. The pirates released the crewmen after being paid ransoms reported at over one million dollars.

In February, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia requested U.N. assistance in fighting the scourge of piracy in waters off the coast of Somalia. As a result, the United States and France presented a draft resolution at the United Nations that would provide U.N. blessing to an aggressive campaign against pirates. The resolution would encourage countries to use, "all necessary means to identify, prevent, and repress actions of piracy and armed robbery."

While the Straits of Malacca in Asia have long been notorious for piracy, today the world’s biggest hotspots for piracy and armed robbery at sea are located in Africa. Using speedboats, and armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, the pirates’ attacks have become bolder and more frequent.

Piracy in the Straits of Malacca has declined as a result of significant international cooperation. Strong international cooperation will also be required to address piracy off the coast of Somalia, and the UN resolution is intended to facilitate this cooperation.

The draft UN resolution would authorize member states to engage in "boarding, searching, and seizing vessels engaged in or suspected of engaging in acts of piracy or armed robbery."

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad says that "With the authority of the Security Council, the prospect for greater help and activity to deal with this problem, which has grown and has become more urgent, will obviously improve."

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