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Somali Piracy - The End in Sight?    
Fri, 21 Apr 2006

Last November there were signs that piracy might be over in the area when the Somali Prime Minister signed an agreement with a US Security company – but then didn’t pay the money. Now, in a move that will delight sailors world-wide and bring more circumnavigators to our oceans, he will allow US WARSHIPS to patrol the territorial waters of Somalia.

Asharq Al-Awsat reports that for the first time since US troops left Somalia in 1993 following the failure of the 'Operation Code Irene' operation, the United States signed yesterday an agreement with the Somali Transitional Government under which the US naval forces (Marines) would deploy official reconnaissance and monitoring patrols of Somalia's coasts to hunt down the pirates who have made these coasts the most dangerous maritime spot in the world.

Somali Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Gedi told 'Asharq al-Awsat' by telephone from Baidoa in southern Somalia that he signed the agreement with the US ambassador in the Kenyan capital Nairobi in a step aimed at boosting trust between the US administration and his government.

Under the agreement, which Gedi briefed all his ministers of its details, the US navy will prepare and train the Somali coastguards and provide them with technical equipment to confront the repeated attacks by pirates backed by some warlords and armed militia leaders against the liners and cargo ships sailing off the Somali coasts in the Indian Ocean.

Even though the United States has been carrying out strict monitoring of the Somali coasts in cooperation with some EU countries since the beginning of 2002, it has remained unable to get close to these coasts because of the Transitional Government's objection and the local fishermen's complaints of the dangers resulting from the presence of US forces and navy in their areas of operations.

Gedi expressed his hope that this agreement would help demonstrate his government's good intentions in a way that might push the US administration into changing its current unfair policy toward Somalia. He declared that he personally intervened through tribal mediators with the kidnappers of 25 Asian sailors, among them nine Indonesians, to secure their release and safe return to their countries after their ship was hijacked on 4 April 200 km from the Somali coast. Dozens of armed pirates stepped up their attacks last week on cargo and container ships sailing off the Somalia coasts in the Indian Ocean while the Somali Government suffers from a severe shortage of military and security resources to resist these attacks.

The Somali Government's sudden agreement with the US administration follows a similar $50 million one that it signed last November with the New York-based American Top Cat company for naval security in a step aimed at putting an end to the pirates' activities and re-imposing the law on Somalia's coasts.

Gedi said his government hopes that the American navy and company would carry out their role of protecting Somalia's coasts and securing them in a way that guarantees the safety of navigation and maritime transport.

Under the agreement, the American company pledged to provide special forces, fast military boats, and helicopters to carry out periodic watch of Somali coasts so as to prevent local pirates from carrying out their criminal activity and curb the activities of some unlicensed companies that are fishing in Somalia's territorial waters.

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by Asharq Al-Awsat/Nancy Knudsen

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