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Led by U.S. Navy, Exercise Cutlass Express 2021 begins in Africa

Col. Ahmed Daher Djama of the Djibouti Navy, C, walks with Gen. William Zana, U.S. Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa commanding general, after the opening ceremony of exercise Cutlass Express 2021 on Monday in Djibouti. Photo by Senior Airman Dwane R. Young/U.S. Air Force
Col. Ahmed Daher Djama of the Djibouti Navy, C, walks with Gen. William Zana, U.S. Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa commanding general, after the opening ceremony of exercise Cutlass Express 2021 on Monday in Djibouti. Photo by Senior Airman Dwane R. Young/U.S. Air Force

July 26 (UPI) -- Twelve African and Western Indian Ocean nations joined the U.S. Navy on Monday for the start of Exercise Cutlass 2021, an annual multination maritime exercise.

The events will be conducted in waters near Djibouti, Kenya, Madagascar and Seychelles, with a concentration on information sharing and interdiction procedures, the U.S. Africa Command said in a statement on Monday.

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The exercise will include in-port training, at-sea scenarios and a senior leadership conference to help national navies to disrupt illicit maritime activity -- including piracy, arms trafficking, human smuggling, drug trafficking and illegal trade in wildlife -- and to strengthen safety and security in East Africa.

Speaking on Monday at the exercise launch ceremony, Lt. Col. Jean Attala of the Seychelles Coast Guard said the event is the most successful of its kind in the region.

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"This [is] why we have always looked forward to it, and ensured that we participate actively, and support it to the fullest," Attala said.

"For that we remain forever grateful to the U.S military, the U.S. Navy Sixth Fleet in particular, and the various European partners and collaborators, who have always ensured that we have a well-planned and well-executed exercise," Attala said.

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Britain, Comoros, Djibouti, Georgia, India, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and the United States are participants in this year's exercises.

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The International Maritime Organization, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Interpol, the European Union Naval Force, Critical Maritime Routes Indian Ocean and the European Union mission in Mali are also involved in the exercises, which will conclude on Aug. 6.

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