By Andrew Quinn
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is looking at new strategies to fight pirates off Somalia, who last month killed four Americans and represent a growing threat to sea traffic, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.
"I'm fed up with it," Clinton said in testimony to the Senate appropriations committee. "We need to do more, and make it clear that the entire world better get behind what we do and get this scourge resolved."
Pirates shot dead four U.S. hostages on a private yacht in waters off Somalia on February 22, the deadliest incident yet involving Americans kidnapped for ransom in an expanding lawless maritime region crossed by key shipping lanes.
Pirate gangs preying on shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean typically target large merchant ships, with oil tankers the prize catch, but the snatching of foreigners can also yield high ransoms. There were around 750 pirate hostages at the end of January.
Clinton said that existing efforts to stop the piracy, which include naval patrols by a number of nations, had failed to significantly dent pirate operations which are increasingly distorting world fuel trade due to higher insurance premiums.
"We have put together an international coalition, but frankly we're not in my view getting enough out of it ... we're looking at a lot of different options," Clinton said, saying the problem demanded a "much more comprehensive approach" by agencies including the Defense Department.
Clinton declined to say what options were under consideration, but did outline factors she said would have to be addressed including a willingness by some shipping companies to sidestep the issue.
"One of our big problems is that a lot of major shipping companies in the world think it's the price of doing business," Clinton said. "They pay a ransom and they just go on their merry way. That has been a huge problem."
Clinton said many foreign naval vessels now patrolling the area were not effective -- "when push comes to shove they're not really producing" -- and not enough was being done go after the pirates' safe-haven ports on the Somali coast.
Clinton said there was no question of U.S. military operations in mainland Somalia, where the United States withdrew after the killing of U.S. troops in late 1993 depicted in the movie "Black Hawk Down."
But she said the piracy issue was moving up Washington's priority list as attacks continued unabated.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)