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NATO Launches Anti-Piracy Operation for Horn of Africa

NATO warships have launched an anti-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia by escorting one ship to port with plans for a similar operation on Tuesday. Lisa Bryant has more from Paris.

The NATO operation aims to help calm the situation off Somalia's coast, which has witnessed a sharp rise in pirate attacks in recent months. The 26-member alliance has authorized its ships to join an international effort to combat the piracy in the Gulf of Aden area, which is one of the world's busiest shipping regions connecting Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

At a press conference in Brussels, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the first operation escorting a boat on had gone well.

"The present state of play is that one NATO ship just finished escorting a ship that was bringing in supplies for the Burundi battalion for [the AU peacekeeping mission] in Somalia," he said. "If I am well informed, a ship is on its way and will dock on the 28th of October escorting a WFP ship."

The second NATO mission Tuesday aims to safeguard aid being brought into Somalia by the U.N. World Food Program. The east-African country has been wracked by warfare and has no functioning government - much less a navy to patrol its shores.

Pirates have hijacked a number of ships off Somalia's coast this year, asking huge amounts of money in ransom. The most brazen act of piracy took place a month ago when a Ukrainian cargo ship was seized laden with arms. It remains in pirates' hands, despite being surrounded by U.S. forces as negotiations continue over ransom demands and handing over its passengers and cargo.

Several other countries have announced they would also dispatch ships to the region, including the European Union, in a bid to reduce pirate attacks.