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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

U.S. lawmakers study arming cargo ships to fight pirates

June 20, 2011 6:19 pm                                                                    By: Jim Kouri

"Since the earliest days of this country, piracy has been a serious crime," said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride. "Piracy threatens human lives and disrupts international commerce. When pirates attack U.S. vessels by force, they must face severe consequences."

Some U.S. government officials are seriously considering permitting American registered cargo ships to carry weapons to defend themselves from international piracy especially off the coast of Somalia and northern Africa.

According to an intelligence source, there are two main rationales for arming merchant ships: First, to protect the ships and crews from Somali pirates and terrorists; and to regulate the use of private security firms offering armed mercenaries.

Members of the shipping industry have requested that a study be conducted by security and naval experts on dealing with pirates who plunder ships, kill crew members, and seize both and hold them for ransom. Critics have complained about the failure of naval forces inability to deter or react to piracy.

"Since the earliest days of this country, piracy has been a serious crime," said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride. "Piracy threatens human lives and disrupts international commerce. When pirates attack U.S. vessels by force, they must face severe consequences."

According to a U.S. intelligence official, 117 ships have been attacked by pirates in Somalia with at least seven crew members killed and 338 sailors held hostage in the first quarter of 2011; and more than 700 seafarers are being held hostage by Somali pirates at any one time according to the Greenwich Maritime Institute.

A U.S. intelligence source told the Law Enforcement Examiner, that several countries are considering taking direct and deadly action against the pirates on land, where they hide, as well as sea. One scenario is the use of Navy SEAL-type units to seek and destroy pirate strongholds in Somalia. Another is the use of bombing missions over pirate bases located in the Horn of Africa or use of missiles launched from warships targeting hideouts.


In Britain, lawmakers say they will determine if international law is sufficient to deal with the piracy threat, and investigate the use of private negotiators when pirates demand ransoms for the return of crews, ships and cargo.
This latest anti-piracy probe comes as a senior US military official admitted the country was struggling to protect ships from attack. There are not enough ships in the world to defeat piracy at sea, William Wechsler, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics and global threats, told U.S. Congressmen probing piracy.
"Somali pirates operate in an area covering approximately 2.9 million square nautical miles. If you took all of the navies of all the countries in all of the world, and put them against this area, they still wouldn't be able to cover this amount of nautical space," said Secretary Wechsler.
As a result, the US would pursue pirates on land as well as sea. "Our intention is to pursue innovative measures to maximize all the tools at our disposal in order to disrupt the activities of the financiers, organizers and logistics suppliers of piracy," Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told the congressional hearing. "We will focus in the coming months on identifying and apprehending the criminal conspirators who provide the leadership and financial management of the pirate enterprise, with the objective of bringing them to trial and interrupting pirate business processes."
During the congressional hearing, Mr. Wechsler admitted the US needed more intelligence on the links. "[Intelligence] on this issue is much less than any of us would like. As we see it now, we believe the terrorists and the pirates are not operationally or organizationally aligned, though there is an element of coercion that results in pirate revenues going to Al Shabaab."


Continue reading on Examiner.com U.S. lawmakers study arming cargo ships to fight pirates - National public safety | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/public-safety-in-national/u-s-lawmakers-study-arming-cargo-ships-to-fight-pirates#ixzz1Q2qXhjjF
In Britain, lawmakers say they will determine if international law is sufficient to deal with the piracy threat, and investigate the use of private negotiators when pirates demand ransoms for the return of crews, ships and cargo.

This latest anti-piracy probe comes as a senior US military official admitted the country was struggling to protect ships from attack. There are not enough ships in the world to defeat piracy at sea, William Wechsler, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics and global threats, told U.S. Congressmen probing piracy.

"Somali pirates operate in an area covering approximately 2.9 million square nautical miles. If you took all of the navies of all the countries in all of the world, and put them against this area, they still wouldn't be able to cover this amount of nautical space," said Secretary Wechsler.

As a result, the US would pursue pirates on land as well as sea. "Our intention is to pursue innovative measures to maximize all the tools at our disposal in order to disrupt the activities of the financiers, organizers and logistics suppliers of piracy," Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, told the congressional hearing. "We will focus in the coming months on identifying and apprehending the criminal conspirators who provide the leadership and financial management of the pirate enterprise, with the objective of bringing them to trial and interrupting pirate business processes."

During the congressional hearing, Mr. Wechsler admitted the US needed more intelligence on the links. "[Intelligence] on this issue is much less than any of us would like. As we see it now, we believe the terrorists and the pirates are not operationally or organizationally aligned, though there is an element of coercion that results in pirate revenues going to Al Shabaab."



1 comment:

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