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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Report: 5,000 pirates recruited for Gulf region

MOSCOW — Russian military intelligence has assessed that more than 5,000 Somali pirates are operating in the Gulf region.   

Officials said military intelligence concluded that thousands of Somalis were recruited for piracy operations in the Red Sea, Arabian Sea and Gulf. They said the assessment estimated that more than 5,000 pirates were operating in the Gulf of Aden near Yemen.

"Pirates have become more daring and aggressive recently," Russian Navy deputy commander Vice Adm. Oleg Burtsev said. "There were instances when they seized vessels right in front of the ships that were responsible for the security of commercial shipping."

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In a radio interview on July 18, Burtsev outlined the military assessment of the Somali piracy network. The naval deputy chief of staff said more than 5,000 Somali pirates were based off the coast of Yemen, divided into five groups.

The Somali piracy groups were said to cooperating in tracking and capturing commercial vessels. Officials said the groups also worked together to take their prey to Somalia in an attempt to win tens of millions of dollars in ransom.

In October 2008, Russia joined a Western-led naval task force off the coast of Somalia. So far, three Russian Navy warships — two destroyers and a frigate — have conducted anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

Officials said Moscow would expand its anti-piracy force in the Gulf region, with an additional destroyer to arrive in late July. They said Russia would also establish a unit to investigate and track pirates in the Arabian Sea and Red Sea.

"We will open criminal cases and conduct probes into crimes committed by pirates in order to arrest them and put them on trial under Russian law," Alexander Bastrykin, the chief investigator in the Russian Attorney General's office, said.

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