, JOHANNESBURG, February 13, 2011 (AFP) – South Africa has deployed a frigate to the Mozambique Channel off east Africa to help fight the southward creep of piracy, the public broadcaster SABC reported Sunday.
The deployment marks the first time South Africa has sent a ship to take part in anti-piracy operations, and follows international pressure on the key regional player to step up its role in the fight against piracy.
The ship, the SAS Mendi, will join five other frigates and 18 smaller boats in the operation, SABC said.
Somali pirates have been striking farther afield as the European Union and other countries have cracked down on piracy off the coast of Somalia.
In December, pirates staged their southernmost attacks yet when they tried unsuccessfully to hijack two ships in the Mozambique Channel.
According to the International Maritime Bureau, Somali pirates are currently holding 31 vessels and 700 hostages.