NATO sends ships to Somali coast

Oct. 9, 2008 at 6:07 PM

BUDAPEST, Hungary, Oct. 9 (UPI) -- NATO's Standing Naval Maritime Group will travel to the piracy-plagued waters off the coast of Somalia, a spokesman for the defense alliance said Thursday.

James Appathurai said the decision came out of the defense ministerial conference at Budapest, Hungary, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a news release.

"The United Nations asked for NATO's help to address this problem," Appathurai said. "Today, the ministers agreed that NATO should play a role. NATO will have its Standing Naval Maritime Group, which is composed of seven ships, in the region within two weeks."

Reports indicated pirates have seized 30 vessels this year, the latest a Ukrainian cargo vessel. The pirates also endangered food shipments to the country, prompting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to ask for escorts for World Food Program ships.

The seven NATO ships will work with allies that have a naval presence in the area now, Appathurai said, including the United States.

"There are still important details to work out, but the bottom line is there will soon be NATO military vessels off the coast of Somalia deterring piracy and escorting food shipments," Appathurai said.

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