No list yet for US led anti-pirate force, but Australia wants in

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Barely a month after United Nations Security Council authorised the pursuit of Somali pirates, at sea and on land including the country’s airspace, the United States is assembling a twenty-nation anti-pirate force to patrol and fight pirate operations in the Gulf of Aden.

The international force, Combined Task Force 151, is expected to be fully operational before the end of the month of January. In an announcement, Thursday, from the US Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, Rear Admiral Terence McKnight has been named commander of the force.

Besides the US, which is to lead the coalition forces, no list of countries involved in the operation has been provided yet, although Australian Defence head, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, has indicated that Australia is considering taking part in the operation. Fifth Fleet spokesperson has also announced that they are willing to work with any nation that wants to join the coalition.

Other coalition forces that have been active in the fight and pursuit of pirates in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean include an EU force as well as individual navies from China, Russia and Iran.

Since the UN Security Council resolution in December, there has been a concentration of warships off the Somali coast accounting for the dramatic reduction in pirate operations. Only two hijackings have so far been successful since December.

But according to Andrew Mwangura, head of the East African Seafarers’ Association “despite the recent lull, piracy is likely to continue until the anarchy on land in Somalia has ended. The potential rewards – a single ship can fetch a ransom of millions of pounds – means there is no shortage of gunmen willing to risk their lives at sea”, revealed the Guardian.

Piracy off Somalia’s 3025 kilometre (1,880-miles) coastline has long been rife with about 120 attacks reported in 2008. The pirates are reported to have raked in an estimated 120 million dollars in ransom money and are still holding about 15 ships and more than 200 crew members.

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