The commander of U.S. and coalition naval forces in the Middle East
says increased international cooperation and the ability to turn over
suspected pirates to Kenya for prosecution is making an impact in
combating piracy off the coast of Somalia.
William Gortney says the U.S. Navy turned over seven suspected Somali
pirates to Kenyan authorities Thursday at the Port of Mombasa. These
arrests are a result of a January agreement with Kenya, which created a
system for detainment that had been lacking before.
who commands a multi-national anti-piracy task force authorized by the
United Nations Security Council, says creating the judicial capacity to
prosecute pirates has made a difference in deterring would-be
hijackers. He says the Combined Task Force, or CTF 151, has had its
"CTF 151 [Combined Task Force] and other
cooperating naval forces have encountered approximately 250 pirates;
121 were disarmed and released, 117 disarmed and turned over for
prosecution and nine are pending final disposition," he said.
Gortney told a U.S. congressional panel Thursday that the naval forces
have also confiscated many pirate "tools of the trade," including small
arms, rocket-propelled grenades, ladders and grappling hooks.
Department Ambassador Stephen Mull, also testifying before the House
Armed Services Committee, says Kenya is willing to prosecute as many
pirates as the international community provides. He says the United
States, working with the U.N. Security Council, has made good progress
increasing its international naval presence and has better coordination
with the shipping industry.
"The results of all of these efforts
combined have been encouraging," he said. "The rate of successful
piracy attacks, which was 64 percent in October, plummeted to only 17
percent in February."
In addition, Mull says only six ships are
currently being held hostage today compared to 14 that were being held
toward the end of last year. But Mull acknowledges that Somalia's real
problem is the absence of political and economic stability.
is no doubt that piracy is a symptom of Somalia's failure as a state,"
he said. "While our efforts to counter piracy described here are
strictly focused on piracy, in recognition of the broader problem, the
U.S. separately supports the U.N.-led Djibouti peace process, which
provides a mechanism for political reconciliation."
Mull says neither the United States nor other coalition partners have
plans to conduct counter-piracy measures inside Somalia, but says the
U.S. is in negotiations with other countries in the region to join
Kenya in prosecuting suspected pirates.
While some U.S.
officials fret that Somali pirates might be associated with Islamist
insurgents inside Somalia, Admiral Gortney says so far he has seen no
evidence of a connection between the two.
"We look very, very
carefully for a linkage between piracy and terrorism, or any kind of
ideology, and we do not see it," he said. "It would be a significant
game changer should that linkage occur. This is financially motive
criminal activity at sea because they have no alternatives to make a
living other than that."
Gortney says he expects eight other countries to send ships and aircraft to join the effort in the coming months.