Piracy Off the Horn of Africa
Pirate attacks in the waters off the Horn of Africa, including those on U.S.-flagged vessels, have brought new U.S. and international attention to the long-standing problem of piracy in the region. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) recorded 111 attacks in the waters off the Horn of Africa in 2008, almost double the number in 2007. As of September 14, 2009, the U.S. State Department reported 156 attacks had occurred in those waters since January 2009, with 33 successful hijackings. Attacks remain concentrated in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and the northern coast of Somalia and along Somalia's eastern coastline. However, in July 2009, the United Nations Secretary General warned that "as a result of the military presence in the region, pirates have employed more daring operational tactics, operating further seawards, towards the Seychelles, and using more sophisticated weaponry." Pirate attacks continue to threaten commercial shipping and relief shipments bound for East Africa and the Horn, amid a regional humanitarian crisis that experts are calling the worst since 1984. 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 government in Somalia remains the single greatest challenge to regional security and provides freedom of action for those engaged in piracy along the Somali coast. Some observers also have alleged that the absence of coastal security authorities in Somalia has allowed illegal international fishing and maritime dumping to occur in Somali waters, which in turn has undermined the economic prospects of some Somalis and may be providing economic or political motivation to some groups engaged in piracy. The apparent motive of many active Somali pirate groups is profit, and piracy has proven to be a lucrative activity for many thus far.
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