Somalia: World can use force against pirates
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somalia authorized foreign powers yesterday to use force against pirates holding a ship loaded with tanks for $20 million ransom, raising the stakes for bandits being watched by the US Navy.
There was no indications, however, that the Americans or anyone else was preparing to take action.
Last week's hijacking of the Ukrainian cargo ship MV Faina - carrying 33 Soviet-made T-72 tanks, rifles and heavy weapons - was the highest profile act of piracy off this Horn of Africa nation this year. Several US ships patrolled nearby and American helicopters buzzed overhead.
Moscow also has sent a warship to protect the few Russian hostages on board, but it was a week away from the coast of central Somalia where the Faina has been anchored since Sept. 25.
Spurred by the latest hijacking, at least eight European Union countries offered yesterday to form a new force to help protect shipping in the increasingly dangerous waters off Somalia, France's defense minister said - a move that eventually could give the Navy crucial support in the area.
A UN Security Council resolution in June gave permission to nations to send warships into Somalia's territorial waters to stop "piracy and armed robbery at sea" if such operations were taken in cooperation with the weak Somali government in Mogadishu.
Mohammed Jammer Ali, acting director of the Somali Foreign Ministry, told The Associated Press yesterday that he was giving new permission for such actions.
"The international community has permission to fight with the pirates," he said.
In a radio address, Somalia's president, Abdullahi Yusuf, also appealed to foreign powers. "The government has lost patience and now wants to fight pirates with the help of the international community," he said.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to comment on any possible military operation but said the United States remained resolved to keep the Faina's military cargo from falling into the wrong hands - meaning Somali militants with links to Al Qaeda.