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US Announces International Anti-Piracy Force

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U.S. Navy officials have announced the formation of a new international force to fight piracy in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf Aden off the coast of Somalia.

A statement Thursday issued by the Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet says the task force will include assets from 20 nations, and will be led by U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Terence McKnight. The statement did not name the specific nations participating in the force.

Warships from a number of nations including China, Malaysia and the European Union are already patrolling the region to secure the shipping lanes.

Also Thursday, a senior official in Taipei said Taiwan is considering sending warships to protect Taiwanese fishing vessels against Somali pirates.

Pirates have seized more than 40 ships in waters near Somalia during the past year and collected millions of dollars in ransom.

A spokesman for pirates who captured a Ukrainian vessel last year claimed his group protects Somali waters from illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste.

The Gulf of Aden connects the Indian Ocean with the Red Sea and is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

The United Nations Security Council voted last month to allow foreign governments to enter Somalia's airspace and territory to pursue pirates.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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