U.S. seeks permission to go after pirate ships in Somalia’s waters
Stars and Stripes May 1, 2008
Contrary to a Somali official’s criticism about American forces, U.S. Navy officials said piracy off that country’s coast is of great concern to the United States and the international community.
Abdullahi Said Samatar, security affairs minister in Somalia’s semiautonomous Puntland region, was critical about the U.S. after Somali forces rescued a hijacked ship carrying food to the impoverished nation.
The ship, called the al-Khaleej, originated in Dubai and was seized by pirates on April 22. Somalians rescued the vessel and arrested seven suspects, who were sentenced Monday to life in prison, The Associated Press reported. Three other suspects were wounded in the rescue.
“It is sad that the American forces off the coast of Somalia are here for fun and are not combating the pirates,” Samatar said afterward.
Without commenting directly on Samatar’s statement, Navy officials said they have put many resources into combating the problem.
Meanwhile, a proposal before the U.N. Security Council would pave the way for countries to venture into Somalia’s territorial waters to go after pirates, who often use high-tech weapons and equipment to take over container ships, tankers and other vessels.
“We take piracy very seriously,” said Lt. Stephanie Murdock, 5th Fleet spokeswoman. “Our sailors deploy on ships throughout the world for maritime security. The commanding officers and crews train hard for these missions, and are dedicated to bringing security to these regions.”
The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, covers the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean including international waters around Somalia.
“Piracy isn’t just a U.S. Navy concern, or just a U.S. concern, but a concern that requires international involvement for a solution, and involvement from many agencies and governments,” Murdock said.
In February, the United Nations adopted a resolution urging member states with ships and aircraft adjacent to the coast of Somalia to be vigilant about any incidents of piracy and to protect merchant shipping, particularly involving humanitarian aid.
Several nations, including the United States, are now seeking U.N. approval to go beyond international waters into Somalia’s territorial waters.
The U.S. and France introduced a draft resolution to Security Council members at a closed meeting Monday afternoon. It is co-sponsored by Britain and Panama, according to AP.
The resolution allows nations to enter Somalia’s territorial waters to board, search and seize and arrest those onboard ships suspected in engaging in piracy, according to AP. Under international law, territorial waters generally extend about 14 miles from a sovereign country’s shores.
The proposal was prompted by an incident in early April in which pirates climbed aboard a French luxury yacht in the Gulf of Aden and held 30 crewmembers for a week. Six pirates were later captured in an operation involving naval vessels, helicopters and a plane.
The French government cited the incident in calling for an international force to police the waters around the Horn of Africa, which is patrolled by a multinational flotilla combatting terrorism.