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Piracy off the Horn of Africa
Congressional research rept.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
Pagination or Media Count:
Pirate attacks in the waters off Somalia and the Horn of Africa, including those on U.S.-flagged vessels, have brought renewed international attention to the long-standing problem of maritime piracy. According to the International Maritime Bureau IMB, at least 219 attacks occurred in the region in 2010, with 49 successful hijackings. Somali pirates have attacked ships in the Gulf of Aden, along Somalias eastern coastline, and outward into the Indian Ocean. Using increasingly sophisticated tactics, these pirates now operate as far east as the Maldives in good weather, and as far south as the Mozambique Channel. Hostage taking for ransom has been a hallmark of Somali piracy, and the IMB reports that more hostages, over 1,180, were taken at sea in 2010 than any year since records began over 86 of those were taken by Somali pirates. The increase in pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa is directly linked to continuing insecurity and the absence of the rule of law in war-torn Somalia. The absence of a functioning central government there provides freedom of action for pirates and remains the single greatest challenge to regional security. The lack of law enforcement capacity creates a haven where pirates hold hostages during ransom negotiations that can last for months. Some allege that the absence of Somali coastal security authorities has allowed illegal international fishing and maritime dumping to go unchecked, which in turn has undermined coastal communities economic prospects, providing economic or political motivation to some pirates. The apparent motive of most pirate groups, however, is profit, and piracy has proven to be lucrative. Somalias pirate economy has grown substantially in the past two years, with ransoms now averaging more than 5 million. These revenues may further exacerbate the ongoing conflict and undermine regional security.
APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE