UN Somalia envoy calls for international action on piracy

The United Nations Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah called for international action Friday to combat a surge in piracy in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia, dpa reported.

Piracy has surged this year in the Gulf of Aden, part of an important shipping route from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal.

Somalia's transitional federal government, which has no navy to speak of and is embroiled in combating a bloody insurgency, has been unable to control the pirates.

Up to 10 ships are believed to be in the hands of pirates at the moment, with four of them being seized within a 24-hour period.

The United Nations Security Council in June approved incursions into Somali waters to combat the pirates, and while Ould-Abdallah welcomed this move he said that it was time for a "collaborative effort to put the resolution into effect."

"We have to work quickly before the level of criminal activity increases and affects ports in neighbouring countries," he said.

Malaysia on Friday said it was sending three warships to the Gulf of Aden after two of its ships were hijacked with the loss of one life.

However, the ships are only going to provide security for five ships owned by Malaysian shipping line MISC Berhad.

The US Naval Central Command has set up a Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) in the area and a Canadian warship is accompanying deliveries of humanitarian aid.

Pirates are seeking ransoms, often in excess of 1 million dollars, and there are increasing fears that at least some of this money is being used to fund the insurgency in Somalia.

"The millions of dollars in ransom paid to the pirates and their associates inland and overseas has become a multimillion-dollar business, which threatens stability in (the semi-autonomous region of) Puntland and in Somalia as a whole," Ould-Abdallah said.

UN agencies say over 6,000 civilians have died in an insurgency that exploded in early 2007 after Ethiopian troops kicked out the Islamist regime and helped reinstate the transitional government.

Almost 1 million Somalis have fled fighting in the capital Mogadishu and are now living in camps outside the city or have crossed the border to neighbouring Kenya.

Somalia has been plagued by chaos and clan-based civil war since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled in 1991.

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