Seven piracy suspects are rounded up by Yemeni coastguard officers as international talks have become necessary.
Piracy prevention now a priority
ADEN // Yemen's coastguard said yesterday it received seven suspected Somali pirates on Friday from a Danish warship that rescued them. "The Somali pirates were handed over to us by the Danish warship, and they are now in Mukalla," said a Yemeni coastguard officer on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media. The Yemeni officer refused to give further information on what will happen to the pirates. However, it is expected they will be interrogated by police and their case will be looked at after the Eid holiday. The Somalis were picked up by the Danish warship HDMS Absalon on Wednesday after being found in a powerless skiff with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s aboard, according to Jesper Lynge, a Danish navy spokesman. They were found about 140km off the coast of Yemen following a distress call, Mr Lynge said. The men are suspected of being pirates because of the weapons on board, he said. The arrest of the seven Somalis comes two days after a Yemen cargo ship, with a crew of seven, was released by Somali pirates. The crew, which was taken captive on Nov 25, was freed without a ransom being demanded, according to Abdullah Obaid, general manager of Bin Jaribah Company, which owns the ship. He said the ship carrying more than 500 tonnes of steel is now on its way to Socotra island in the Indian Ocean and is likely to arrive today. The issue of piracy in the Gulf of Aden has attracted international attention in the past year. There were 62 attacks in the first nine months of 2008, with 13 vessels still being held by Somali pirates, according to the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Centre. The UN Security Council extended on Tuesday its approval for countries to enter Somalia's territorial waters to stop acts of piracy. The 12-month extension allows nations to use "all necessary means" to combat piracy in the region. The council also backed the deployment of an EU naval warship flotilla to tackle piracy off Somalia's coast. "We hope this resolution will give the coalition forces patrolling the region more authority to crack down on pirates," said Col Lotf al Baraty, the director of Yemeni coastguard in Aden. He said the main solution to the surge of piracy in the Gulf of Aden is having a strong government in Somalia. "If we want to control piracy, we have to have a strong state in Somalia. The solution to piracy is a strong government that is able to control the situation in Somalia," he said. Mr Al Baraty said economic and security realities mean that piracy should receive more attention from countries and the international coalition forces patrolling the region. "We used to have around 60,000 ships passing through Bab el Mandab water way and now the number has dropped to around 20,000. "We also expect the number to go down unless piracy is addressed seriously. So, it is not only one country that is being affected but countries in the region and countries investing their money in this region," said Mr Al Baraty. He said his fleet of fewer than 25 boats is struggling to respond to almost-daily distress calls from vessels that have been attacked by pirates, but denied reports that the piracy activities take place in Yemen territorial waters. "There are no piracy activities in our waters. There is misunderstanding about the Gulf of Aden; people think it covers the territorial waters of Yemen. This is wrong. The Aden Gulf covers 2.5 million square metres. It is a wide region. Piracy activities take place off Somalia coast. It is far away from our ability." Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's president, and his Djibouti counterpart discussed last week how to co-operate on stopping piracy activities, and last month officials from the Arab countries bordering the Red Sea met in Egypt to discuss how they can work together against piracy. All these moves, according to Ahmed Mohammed Abdulghani, chairman of the Sana'a-based al Jazeera and Gulf Studies Centre, also reflect the Yemen government's concerns about the heavy presence of international forces in the region. "Yemen is concerned over the heavy presence of the international war ships in the region for its long coastline. It feels such presence demonstrates its weakness to control its coast," he said. "It is suspicious why this sudden concern from the international community and presence of its war ships. "Are pirates so strong and well-equipped that require such deployment of military ships to the region? There is concern that such international forces might exploit piracy to justify their presence in the region." firstname.lastname@example.org