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NATO warships arrive to deter Somali pirates

  • Story Highlights
  • More than 60 ships attacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden in 2008
  • NATO has authorized naval vessels to protect U.N. World Food Program ships
  • Somali PM Sunday welcomes seven NATO warships off the coast of his country
  • Pirates still holding a Ukrainian ship carrying arms, demanding $20M ransom
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From Journalist Mohamed Amiin Adow
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(CNN) -- Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein Sunday welcomed the arrival of seven NATO warships off the coast of his country to help in the battle against pirates in the region.

"We are so delighted with the arrival of those NATO ships into our waters and they have our full consent to fight against the pirates," the prime minister said at a news conference.

"NATO can carry out any acts including military actions in our waters against the pirates," he added.

Responding to a request from the United Nations, NATO defense ministers recently authorized the fleet of naval vessels to help protect U.N. World Food Program ships carrying relief supplies to Somalia.

The WFP ships had been protected by Canadian military vessels under a temporary arrangement that expired this week.

The NATO ships will also help "deter acts of piracy that continue to threaten the region," the alliance said.

It is part of an international effort to curb a spate of Somali pirate hijackings in the past year in the Gulf of Aden, which partially borders Somalia.

More than 60 ships have been attacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden this year alone, compared with about half that in 2007, according to a report released earlier this month by Chatham House, a London-based institute that analyzes international affairs.

The report found the $18 million to $30 million in ransoms already paid this year is helping to finance the war in Somalia. One of the groups reportedly receiving ransom money is Al-Shabaab, an Islamic militant group that is waging a bloody battle for control of Somalia. Al-Shabaab has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States.

Pirates are still holding a Ukrainian ship carrying Soviet-made tanks, artillery shells, grenade launchers and small arms off Somalia's coast and are demanding a $20 million ransom. The MV Faina was seized in late September and is being monitored by nearby U.S. naval ships.

Last week, India sent a naval ship to escort Indian vessels traveling along the coast of Yemen and part of southern Oman.

Hassan said the pirates are an "absolute risk" to Somalia and the rest of the world.

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