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18.05.2009 Somalia

Somali anti-pirate coastguard bid

By BBC
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Somalia has asked the international community to help it set up a national coastguard to help tackle piracy.

Nur Mohamed Mohamoud, of Somalia's National Security Agency, told an anti-piracy summit in Malaysia the government was eager to tackle pirates.

He said an effective coastguard was also needed to protect fishermen from illegal foreign fishing boats and to prevent dumping of toxic materials.

Somalia wants equipment and training, not a foreign anti-piracy force.

However, Somalia's internationally recognised government only controls small parts of the country, while Islamist insurgents hold much of the south.

Meanwhile, five suspected pirates are due to go on trial in Holland after being caught allegedly trying to attack a Dutch-flagged freighter in January.

"We need an effective coastguard to protect our fishermen from illegal fishing, to prevent dumping of toxic materials in our waters and fight shipping piracy," Somalia's security official told the conference in Kuala Lumpur.

"We ask the international community... to supply us with equipment and training."

The Malaysia conference is also expected to discuss what to do with pirates who are caught, as different countries have different policies.

Some alleged pirates have been put on trial in France and Kenya, while another has been flown to the US.

Some suspects have, however, been set free, with some arguing that international law is unclear on the matter.

As of 15 May, pirates have hijacked 29 ships and taken 472 crew hostage this year, according to the International Maritime Bureau watchdog.

International donors at a recent UN-sponsored conference pledged more than $250m (£165m) in military and development aid to Somalia.

UN bodies will oversee funding earmarked for the government, which wants to build a police force of 10,000 and a separate security force of 6,000.

Somalia has been without a stable government since 1991 and the chaos has allowed piracy to flourish.

Foreign navies have been patrolling the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden to deter pirates but the number of attacks has continued to rise.

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