A New War on Piracy? Germany to Deploy Up to 1,400 to Fight Pirates

The uproar over pirates off the Gulf of Aden has led the German government to contribute a naval frigate to an EU mission along the Somali coast. More soldiers may be on the way. In the meantime German helicopters have defended a pair of merchant ships from pirate speedboats.

As European enthusiasm for the American-led "War on Terror" continues to wane, Europe is assembling a substantial military force to send to the Gulf of Aden. Call it the "War on Piracy" -- and Germany, this time, has not been shy.

Although the German Defense Ministry refuses to confirm the number, a report on Tuesday in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says that the government is considering deploying up to 1400 troops to combat Somali piracy. By way of comparison, Berlin currently contributes about 3,500 troops to the war in Afghanistan.

The government has already announced its intention to send a frigate to region as part of the EU mission "Operation Atalanta," which is set to deploy sometime in mid-December. First, however, Germany's parliament may have to expand the country's legal mandate for the use of force, which some believe does not currently allow for an aggressive anti-pirate mission.

In addition to the 500 sailors who would staff the frigate, the government may also send troops to serve as security forces on German trade vessels.

According to the East African Seafarers' Assistance Program, Somali pirates hijacked yet another ship over the weekend, this time a Yemeni freighter called the Amani.

And on Sunday afternoon, the German navy received emergency calls from a pair of German merchant ships indicating they were being attacked by pirates in speedboats. In response, the German frigate Mecklenberg-Vorpommern sent naval helicopters to scene, after which the pirates reportedly fled.

Somali pirates are thought to be in possession of a dozen ships and over two hundred captured sailors. Among the captured vessels is a Saudi Arabian tanker called the Sirius Star, which the pirates are trying to ransom to the tune of $15 million (€11.6 million). This represents a discount from their original demand of $25 million.

cpg -- with wire reports

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