UN warns Somali pirates inspire copycat attacks
UNITED NATIONS - Somali pirates who now hold more than 300 hostages and 15 vessels are inspiring militants who have started attacking ships in other parts of Africa, a top UN official said Monday.
The warning came as the UN Security Council called on West African nations to step up navy patrols and other measures to counter a new front in the piracy war.
Somali pirates are going ever further into the Indian Ocean to stage attacks and using "more violent" means, Taye-Brook Zerihoun, assistant UN secretary general told the 15-member Security Council.
According to the latest International Maritime Organization figures, the Somali pirates now have 316 hostages and 15 ships. Several governments, with Britain the most recent, have allowed or are considering allowing private security guards on ships.
Zerihoun said the UN and governments were increasingly worried by links between the pirates and Shebab Islamist militants fighting Somalia's western-backed government.
He said greater international action against the Somali pirates "have had the unintended consequence of pushing pirate dens, with their lucrative business model further south, including into areas that are under Shebab's influence."
"The increasing links between Shebab and pirates indicate that the problem of piracy may be mutating. Somali piracy could also be inspiring attacks elsewhere on the world's shipping lanes, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea," Zerihoun said.
Attacks off the coast of Nigeria have now spread to neighboring Benin where at least 20 piracy incidents so far this year, compared to none in 2010, according to the shipping industry.
Benin and Nigeria launched joint navy patrols last month and France, the United States and China are also offering help in West Africa.
The Security Council passed a resolution calling on West African states to increase their measures against pirates.
It urged more joint maritime patrols and action to help countries prosecute pirates who are caught. The United Nations is pressing more countries to make piracy a criminal offense so more prosecutions can be conducted.
West African heads of state are to hold an anti-piracy summit in November.