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Naval patrols fail to deter pirates

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Naval patrols fail to deter pirates

Post by shammy on Wed Dec 17, 2008 12:49 pm

ON THE ARABIAN SEA: Rear Admiral Giovanni Gumiero is going on a pirate hunt.

From the deck of an Italian destroyer cruising the pirate-infested waters off Somalia's coast, he has all the modern tools at his fingertips - radar, sonar, infrared cameras, helicopters, a cannon that can sink a ship 10 miles, or 16 kilometers, away - to take on a centuries-old problem that harks back to the days of schooners and eye patches.

"Our presence will deter them," the admiral said confidently.

But the wily buccaneers of Somalia's seas do not seem especially deterred - instead, they seem to be getting only wilier. More than a dozen warships, from Italy, Greece, Turkey, India, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, France, Russia, Britain, Malaysia and the United States, have joined the hunt.

And yet, in just the past two months, the pirates have attacked more than 30 vessels, eluding the naval patrols, going farther out to sea and seeking bigger, more lucrative game, including an American cruise ship and a 1,000-foot, or 305-meter, Saudi oil tanker.

The pirates are recalibrating their tactics, attacking ships in beelike swarms of 20 to 30 skiffs, and threatening to choke off one of the busiest shipping arteries in the world, at the mouth of the Red Sea.

UN officials recently estimated that Somali pirates had netted as much as $120 million this year in ransom payments - an astronomical sum for a country whose economy has been gutted by 17 years of chaos and war. Some shipping companies are now rerouting their vessels to avoid Somalia's waters, detouring thousands of miles around the Cape of Good Hope, at the southern tip of Africa.

The pirates are totally outgunned. They continue to cruise around in fiberglass skiffs with assault rifles and at best a few rocket-propelled grenades. One Italian officer said that going after them in a 485-foot-long destroyer, bristling with surface-to-air missiles and torpedoes, was like "going after someone on a bicycle with a truck."

But the pirates - true to form - remain unfazed.

http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/12/16/africa/pirates.php

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