Published On: Mon, Apr 24th, 2017

US officials say pirates returned to Somalia waters

Pirates have returned to the waters off Somalia, but the spike in attacks on commercial shipping does not yet constitute a trend, senior U.S. officials said Sunday.

The attacks follow about a five-year respite for the region, where piracy had grown to crisis proportions during the 2010-2012 period, drawing the navies of the United States and other nations into a lengthy campaign against the pirates.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at a military base in the African nation of Djibouti, near the Gulf of Aden, that even if the piracy problem persists, he would not expect it to require significant involvement by the U.S. military.

At a news conference with Mattis, the commander of U.S. Africa Command said there have been about six pirate attacks on vulnerable commercial ships in the past several weeks.

“We’re not ready to say there’s a trend there yet,” Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said, adding that he views the spurt of attacks as a response to the effects of drought and famine on the Horn of Africa.

He said he was focused on ensuring that the commercial shipping industry has not become complacent.

Navy Capt. Richard A. Rodriguez, chief of staff for a specially designated U.S. military task force based in Djibouti, said piracy “certainly has increased” in recent weeks.

But he said countering it is not a mission for his troops, who are focused on counterterrorism in the Horn of Africa and developing the capacities of national armies in Somalia and elsewhere in the region.

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