, KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 – A Somali official has appealed for international help to fight piracy, saying the war-torn nation needs an effective coastguard, equipment and training to combat the high-seas menace.
Nur Mohamed Mohamoud, deputy director of Somalia’s national security agency, told an international conference that it was keen to tackle the pirate threat which is disrupting one of the world’s busiest maritime trade routes.
"We know where they hide. We are prepared to fight. We ask the international community to help us to fight piracy," he told the conference of maritime experts, diplomats and security officials meeting in the Malaysian capital.
"We need an effective coastguard to protect our fishermen from illegal fishing, to prevent dumping of toxic materials in our waters and fight shipping piracy," he said.
"We ask the international community… to supply us with equipment and training."
A country of seven million people, Somalia has had no effective central authority since former president Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991, setting off a bloody cycle of clashes between rival factions.
Pirate attacks off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden jumped tenfold in the first three months of 2009 compared with last year, rising from six to 61, according to data from the International Maritime Bureau.
Mohamoud said that Somalia, where the current transitional government is facing a serious challenge from Islamist insurgents, would not be able to eradicate piracy as long as it remained poor and ungoverned.
"Somalia is a war-torn country. We want Somalia waters to be safe. We do not want pirates in our waters," he told the meeting.
"An end to piracy can only be brought if the rule of law can be enforced and causes of piracy tackled. Piracy will continue to be a problem as long as the violence continues in Somalia," he said.
Experts at the two-day conference in the Malaysian capital will tackle divisive issues including who should pay for anti-piracy operations, and whether crews should be armed or mercenaries hired to guard ships.
There is also a debate over what to do with pirates arrested by the navies patrolling the troubled region, and whether short-term security measures or longer-term development initiatives are the best way to curb high-seas crime.
Speakers include UN envoy for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, US naval and coastguard officials and Tim Wilkins from owners’ association INTERTANKO.
The delegates will adopt a statement Tuesday outlining possible solutions to eliminate the pirate menace.
Somali piracy started two decades ago with more noble goals of deterring illegal fishing and protecting the nation’s resources and sovereignty at a time when the state was collapsing.
Today’s pirates have morphed into a sophisticated criminal ring with international ramifications. Anti-piracy naval operations operating under United States, European Union and NATO commands now patrol the region.
Some 20 foreign warships cruise Somalia’s coast on any given day, in a partly successful effort to protect the trade route, but experts at the meeting will discuss a more comprehensive solution.