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Somalia, US firm sign deal to guard coastline
www.chinaview.cn 2005-11-26 02:31:45

    NAIROBI, Nov. 25 (Xinhuanet) -- Transitional Federal Government of Somalia on Friday signed an agreement with a US-based maritime security firm to protect and control its territorial waters.

    The two-year agreement signed by Somali Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Hassan Abshir Farah and Peter Casini, President of Topcat Marine Security, will help fight terrorism, curb illegal fishing and combat pirates, who have used speed boats, automatic weapons and satellite phones to target UN-chartered ships and other vessels.

    "The comprehensive agreement will create a maritime security program to protect and control all Somali waters within its exclusive economic zone," said Farah after signing the deal in Nairobi.

    "This agreement includes the creation of five coastal security bases including advanced communications equipment, high speed patrol boats, ground vehicles, and several helicopters to patrol the entire Somalia coastline and its territorial waters," he said.

    "Also included in this program will be a comprehensive trainingpackage for coast guard, special forces, and all other necessary personnel to continue the safe enforcement of Somali sovereignty for decades to come," Farah added.

    The agreement came after the International Maritime Bureau (IMB)reported an alarming increase in attacks off the southern and eastern coast of Somalia and appealed to US and NATO warships in the region to protect vessels sailing near the Somali coast, an important shipping route connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean.

    Pirates have launched over 20 attacks against ships off anarchic Somalia since March 15, said the London-based IMB, which tracks piracy around the world.

    Topcoat president said his firm will fight piracy, theft of natural resources and terrorism within Somali borders and its territorial waters.

    "Our unique, patented, high speed, low profile patrol vessels will deliver a major blow to the pirates, and terrorists that currently plague Somali territorial waters," said Casini who promised to begin the operations next year.

    "Poachers will now be caught and brought to justice. Legal fishing will now be the norm with permits being required through the Somali fishing ministry and foreign ships fishing illegally will have their fishing catches seized, incur several penalties and possible confiscation of their vessels," Casini warned.

    He said Cobra patrol vessels to be used in the operation can reach speeds of up to 90 miles per hour in less than 30 seconds, the worst nightmare for pirates in rickety old boat.

    "The pirates, and those fomenting terror will have no place to run or hide," he warned.

    Somalia, which has the longest coast in Africa at 3,025-km, lies along key shipping lanes linking the Mediterranean with the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean.

    The United States and NATO have warships in the region to protect vessels in the deeper waters farther from shore, but they are not permitted to operate in Somalia's territorial waters.

    The new transitional government, formed during lengthy peace talks in neighboring Kenya, is struggling to establish itself in Somalia as it faces internal divisions and opposition from Islamicmilitants and warlords who benefit from the ongoing anarchy.

    Somalia has had no effective central government since opposition leaders ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

    They then turned on each other, transforming this nation of 7 million people into a patchwork of battling fiefdoms ruled by heavily armed militias. Enditem 

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