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Monday, September 22, 2008

Yemen coast guard forms unit to police pirates

CAIRO — Yemen has formed a maritime unit to fight pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

The Yemen Coast Guard has established an anti-piracy unit to battle an increase in piracy in the Arabian Sea and Red Sea, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said the unit would contain 16 fast patrol boats acquired from Australia.

"The aim of the deployment is to enhance the protection of ships and stop Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden and Bab Al Mandab Strait," a Coast Guard official said.

Officials said each patrol boat would contain 60 marines trained to combat piracy. They said the vessels would contain artillery, radar and advanced communications.

"We have already trained officers on detecting and monitoring pirates and recognizing vessels in distress," the official said.

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Officials said the Yemeni force would work with regional and Western navies, including France, Japan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and the United States. At least eight ships were attacked by pirates since July 20, and 27 since April 2008.

Industry analysts attribute the rise in piracy to the success in obtaining large ransoms for the release of ships. They said despite the increased threat, commercial vessels have been slow in procuring such security systems as electric fences, cameras, surveillance and armed guards.

"It is more by luck than anything else that we haven't had a major disaster yet," Andrew Linnington, an analyst of the British maritime union Nautilus, said.

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