Somalia has granted the U.S. Navy permission to patrol its coastal waters in an effort to combat piracy off the lawless Horn of Africa nation, the prime minister said. Ali Mohamed Gedi told lawmakers on Sunday that the U.S. also would help the transitional government set up a coast guard to secure Somalia's 3,025-kilometer (1,880-mile) coastline.
The agreement was reached during talks with the U.S. ambassador in Kenya, Gedi said. U.S. Embassy officials were not immediately available for comment. Somalia has had no coast guard or navy since 1991, when warlords ousted the dictator and then turned on each other carving this nation of an estimated 8 million people into a patchwork of anarchic clan-based fiefdoms. Piracy rose sharply last year, with the number of incidents rising to 35, compared with only two in 2004, according to the International Maritime Bureau. The bandits target both passenger and cargo vessels for ransom or loot.
The increase in piracy included first-time attacks on vessels carrying food aid for Somalis, hindering U.N. efforts to provide relief to drought victims. Pirates also have attacked a cruise ship. On March 15, the U.N. Security Council encouraged naval forces operating off Somalia to take action against suspected piracy.
In the past two months, U.S. naval ships have confronted two groups of pirates, killing one person and injuring five others. One group of pirates the U.S. navy confronted is now facing trial in neighboring Kenya. Three vessels are currently being held by pirates in Somalia's central region, including a United Arab Emirates-registered oil tanker and a Korean fishing vessel.
The Korean vessel was licensed by the transitional government to fish in Somali waters, but the administration is incapable of securing the coastline, Fishing Marine Resources Minister Hassan Abshir Farah said Sunday, reports the AP.
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