[dehai-news] (AP) US plan calls for hunting pirates by land and air


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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Thu Dec 11 2008 - 08:52:44 EST


US plan calls for hunting pirates by land and air

By JOHN HEILPRIN and ROBERT BURNS 6 hours ago, Dec 11, 2008

UNITED NATIONS (AP) The U.S. is proposing to track down Somali pirates not
only at sea, but on land and in Somalian air space with cooperation from the
African country's weak U.N.-backed government.

The United States on Wednesday circulated a draft United Nations Security
Council resolution on the issue. It proposes that all nations and regional
groups cooperating with Somalia's government in the fight against piracy and
armed robbery "may take all necessary measures ashore in Somalia."

The proposal marks one of the Bush administration's last major foreign
policy initiatives.

If the U.S. military gets involved, it would mark a dramatic turnabout from
the U.S. experience in Somalia in 1992-1993 that culminated in a deadly
military clash in Mogadishu followed by a humiliating withdrawal of American
forces.

Piracy off Somalia has intensified in recent months, with more attacks
against a wider range of targets. There was an unsuccessful assault on a
cruise ship in the Gulf of Aden, which links the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez
Canal and the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. In September, pirates seized a
Ukrainian freighter loaded with 33 battle tanks and on Nov. 15 they seized a
Saudi oil tanker carrying $100 million worth of crude.

About 100 attacks on ships have been reported off the Somali coast this
year. Forty vessels have been hijacked, with 14 still remaining in the hands
of pirates along with more than 250 crew members, according to maritime
officials.

The U.S. resolution is to be presented at a session on Somalia Tuesday with
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

It proposes that for a year, nations "may take all necessary measures ashore
in Somalia, including in its airspace, to interdict those who are using
Somali territory to plan, facilitate or undertake acts of piracy and armed
robbery at sea and to otherwise prevent those activities."

The draft also says Somalia's government whose president wrote the U.N.
twice this month already seeking help suffers from a "lack of capacity,
domestic legislation, and clarity about how to dispose of pirates after
their capture."

The resolution is aimed at taking measures to stabilize the long-violent and
lawless Somalia, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday on condition of
anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about it on the record.
Though a number of countries have sent naval forces and taken other steps to
stop the piracy, the efforts have been considered "very uncoordinated' so
far, a second U.S. official also said privately.

Earlier this month, the Security Council extended authorization for another
year for countries to enter Somalia's territorial waters with advance notice
and to use "all necessary means" to stop acts of piracy and armed robbery at
sea.

Nations entering Somali waters to fight piracy and armed robbery along the
country's 1,880-mile coastline, the continent's longest, must first obtain
approval from the Somali government and give advance notice to U.N.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

But now the U.S. believes the fight must go ashore.

Other international forces have fared poorly in the past trying to help
Somalia, whose latest government was formed in 2004 with the help of the
U.N. and is backed by Ethiopia. The country has been without an effective
government for nearly 20 years.

The U.S. sent troops in 1993 to back a massive U.N. relief operation for
thousands of civilians left starving by fighting. But the U.S. attacked the
home of a warlord, killing scores of civilians including women and children.
Somali militiamen retaliated, bringing down two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters
and killing 18 American servicemen whose bodies were dragged through the
streets. That experience precipitating the U.S. withdrawal was portrayed in
the 2001 movie "Black Hawk Down."

Ethiopian troops, the region's strongest force, have been regularly attacked
since arriving two years ago. They largely have been confined to urban
bases, as have the 2,600 African Union peacekeepers sent as part of an
approved 8,000-member AU mission.

Without committing more U.S. Navy ships, the Bush administration wants to
tap into what officials see as a growing enthusiasm in Europe and elsewhere
for more effective coordinated action against the Somali pirates.
Administration officials view the current effort as lacking coherence, as
pirates score more and bigger shipping prizes.

Spearheading the administration's case, Rice intends to make a pitch at the
U.N.'s anti-piracy meeting in New York on Tuesday with her counterparts from
a number of nations with a stake in solving the problem.

*Burns reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek
also contributed from Washington.*

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