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International Action Taking Hold Against Somali Pirates

Guards stand outside the prison that houses 70 pirate inmates, in the breakaway northern republic of Somaliland. (file photo)

Pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa have dropped significantly in recent months.

A watchdog group of the international shipping industry reports that thanks to the efforts of a coalition of navies patrolling the region, pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa have dropped significantly in recent months. From the beginning of the piracy crisis five years ago, the United States has supported this multilateral approach and we will continue supporting a range of initiatives to address this shared security challenge.

The International Maritime Bureau reported April 23 that incidents of sea piracy worldwide fell 28 percent in the first three months of this year, paced largely by a sharp drop in seizures of vessels by Somalia-based pirates in the waters off the Horn of Africa. There were 43 attacks there, including nine vessel hijackings, compared with 97 attacks a year ago. The agency attributed the decline to disruptive actions and pre-emptive strikes by navies in the region.

Working with the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, an international effort organized pursuant to a resolution by the United Nations Security Council, the United States has contributed to this reduction in several ways. Besides sending U.S. naval vessels to assist with maritime patrols, we have encouraged commercial shipping lines plying those waters to prevent and deter attacks from happening in the first place. This is done by improving ship security and employing armed security personnel. While the safety of ships’ crews is absolutely critical, submitting to pirate ransom demands only ensures that future crews will be taken hostage, and we discourage the payment of ransom.

To better adjudicate piracy cases, the U.S. has worked to enhance the capacity of states in the region to prosecute and incarcerate suspected pirates. We also are focusing on identifying and apprehending the criminal conspirators who lead, manage and finance pirate operations. Toward this end, the U.S. has indicted and is prosecuting two alleged Somali pirate negotiators.

The only long-term solution to the region’s piracy crisis, however, is re-establishing stability, responsive law enforcement and good governance to Somalia, as well as providing Somalis with an alternative to piracy. With four months left to complete the roadmap to end the political transition there, Somalia is at a critical juncture. The U.S. and its international partners are committed to working with the Transitional Federal Government and other Somali leaders to seize the opportunity to make progress toward greater security and stability.