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U.S. to head int´l anti-piracy force

Source: China Daily | 01-09-2009 15:54

Special Report:   China navy's escorting mission

BEIJING, Jan. 9 -- A new international force to battle pirates off the Somali coast is being formed under American command in a bid to focus more military resources to protect one of the world's key shipping lanes, the U.S. Navy said Thursday.

But the new mission, expected to begin operations next week, will have no wider authority to strike at pirate vessels at sea or move against havens on shore. That raises questions whether it can significantly curb pirate flotillas after more than 110 ships were attacked last year.

International efforts to fight piracy have mounted in recent months. More than 20 nations are expected to take part in the new U.S.-led mission.

"This task force does not have any greater rules of engagement," said Commander Jane Campbell, a spokeswoman for U.S. 5th Fleet based in Bahrain. "It does, however, bring a greater focus to counter-piracy operations under one command."

That could lead to more targeted strategies to foil the pirates at sea and gain information on their operations, Campbell said.

There are more than a dozen warships guarding Somalia's waters. Countries including the U.S., Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and India have naval forces off the Somali coast or on their way there.

The U.S. military announcement did not mention the nations taking part in the counter-piracy force, but Campbell said it would likely include nations with ships already in the region.

The announcement said the new force will be headed by U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Terence McKnight.

The 2008 spike in pirate attacks on commercial vessels in August prompted U.S. Naval Central Command to establish a security corridor within the Gulf of Aden, which connects the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean near Somalia.


Editor:Zhang Pengfei