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Russian Navy ready to head for Somalia - Dygalo

04.06.2008 Source: en.rian.ru

If a decision is made, Russian naval ships are ready to head for the Somali coast where pirates recently seized a Dutch ship, an aide to the Russian Navy commander said Tuesday.

The cargo vessel the Amiya Scan, sailing under the flag of Antigua and Barbuda, was captured by Somali pirates on May 26 with four Russians and five Filipinos on board. Somali authorities sent military forces two days later to mount a rescue attempt. The pirates have threatened to kill the crew if any rescue attempt is made.

"If the country's leadership decides to send Russian military ships to the Somali coast, the navy will of course carry out this decision," Captain 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said, adding however that "the use of force in this case would be an extreme measure."

Following reports that the Somali government was ready to use force to rescue the ship's crew, Russia urged Somalia not to take any action that could put the lives of the crew in danger.

Dygalo reiterated on Tuesday that any action against the pirates should not put the lives of the captives in danger. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Monday permitting countries to enter Somali territorial waters to combat "acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea."

Ahmed Said Ownur, fisheries and water resources minister of Puntland, a breakaway region in the northeast of the African state, confirmed last week that a mission had been launched to release the ship by force and a request had been made to the ship's owner, Reider Shipping, not to pay a ransom.

Puntland security forces were involved in the rescue of a hijacked vessel from the United Arab Emirates last month, killing at least one pirate. Seven pirates were arrested.

The waters off the east African nation are considered among the most dangerous in the world. According to the United Nations, 26 pirate attacks on civilian ships have occurred in the area since the start of this year.

On April 4, after a French yacht and its 30 crew were seized by pirates in Somali waters, the French government conducted a military operation there resulting in the arrest of six pirates.

Somalia's transitional government was established with UN assistance in 2004, but it has failed to establish control over the territory following a 17-year civil war. Many regions are under the control of bandits or extremist groups.

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