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Fewer attacks by Somali pirates, but their net widens

There were fewer attacks by Somali pirates in the first quarter of this year than during the same time last year, but their reach is extending far beyond the Gulf of Aden.

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Latest attacks

According to the European Naval Force, EUNAVFOR, the latest pirate attack was against the Liberian-owned, Panamanian-flagged MV VOC Daisy, a cargo ship with a crew of 21 Filipinos. The Daisy was headed west from the United Arab Emirates and was 118 miles from the Omani coast and 174 miles from the EU’s zone of control when it was attacked by four pirates in a skiff, carrying three AK-47s, and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, according to reports.

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Even without the piracy problem, helping Somalis create a stable government is no easy task.

A Western- and UN-backed Somali government, led by President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, controls about four square blocks of Mogadishu, and that only with the protection of African Union peacekeeping troops and an ever-changing collection of local militias.

Offensive on land

Mr. Sharif’s government is reportedly preparing a major “offensive” against the Islamist militia, Al Shabab, which has links to Al Qaeda and has reportedly added thousands of newly trained troops for a total force of some 10,000 fighters. But a feud between Sharif and his parliament currently threatens to bring down the government, even before its Army has a chance to fight.

This week, in a letter to the Somali diaspora, the United Nation’s special representative to the Somali government wrote that recent fighting is an indication that the offensive has in some ways already begun.

“The government has been preparing for quite a while an offensive to address, in particular, security in the capital,” wrote Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN representative. “In this respect, the offensive has already started....”

He called on the Somali government to set aside their differences and work together.

Currently, Sharif loyalists refuse to attend parliament while his rival, parliamentary Speaker Sheikh Adan Nur Madobe, is presiding.

These disputes “are a distraction,” Mr. Abdallah added, saying “I hope that the positive developments that are taking place will diminish the role of those elements that continue to make the Somali people suffer.”

Until Somalia becomes a governed nation, however, pirates will continue to ply the waters of the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, says Mr. Middleton.

“Shipping is more sparse farther out at sea, so the pirates have to wait longer to attack a ship," he says. "But the pirates are preparing with that in mind. They take more water and food and fuel, and they have their GPS to get them home.”

IN PICTURES: Somali pirates