Somali minister: More piracy help needed

AP News
Posted: Apr 18, 2011 12:20 PM
Somali minister: More piracy help needed

The foreign minister of Somalia urged world powers Monday to do more to fight the root causes of piracy on land rather than trying to tackle the problem on the high seas.

Mohammed Abdullahi Omar told a counter-piracy conference in Dubai that pirates are winning despite the efforts by foreign nations to try to contain them as they shift their operations further from his country's shores. He said the lack of an effective Somali government _ and military and police forces to back it up _ is at the core of the piracy scourge.

Several nations have dispatched warships to the waters off Somalia, particularly along the strategic shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden, to try to deter pirate attacks.

Some navies, including those of the United States, France and the United Arab Emirates, have confronted the pirates with force. But there is little international appetite to bring the fight onshore.

"The world has so far only responded with a strategy of containment. This is not productive, effective or sufficient for the world or for Somalia," Omar said.

He called on foreign countries to make "urgent and necessary investment" in Somali security forces to help the country's weak government establish authority in the country. He did not specify what resources the country is seeking.

Somalia's government is ready to act through a "comprehensive strategy" on piracy, Omar said, but it needs international help.

"The immediate goal must be to re-establish the national authority of the Somali state and its security capability to enforce the rule of law," he told foreign dignitaries gathered from more than 50 countries. "We have the will and we have the men and women. You have the resources."

Deeply impoverished Somalia is largely powerless to fight piracy on its own because the central government is weak and only holds half of the country's capital, Mogadishu.

Two decades of anarchy has allowed pirates to flourish off its coasts. They now are able to operate from commandeered motherships hundreds of miles away.

The call to put more pressure on the bandits onshore echoes recent comments by the commander of the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, which is responsible for American-led efforts to combat piracy.

Vice Adm. Mark Fox earlier this year said more effort ought to go into hitting pirate supply lines and tracking their money while keeping alert to what could be growing ties to al-Shabab insurgents.

In an interview Monday, Fox reiterated those recommendations, and suggested that shipping companies do more to beef up their own security.

"I would like to see the industry side be more willing to embrace embarked security teams," he said. "There have been no ships successfully pirated with embarked security teams. So let that be its own statement."

There were a record high 142 piracy attacks worldwide in the first quarter of this year, according to the International Maritime Bureau, a global maritime watchdog. Nearly 70 percent or 97 of the attacks occurred off the coast of Somalia, up sharply from 35 in the same period a year earlier.

The bureau's director last week warned of a "dramatic increase in the violence and techniques" used by the pirates.