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Identifying pirates poses challenge

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MOGADISHU, Somalia, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- The difficulty of telling pirates from fisherman in the volatile waters off Somalia's coast poses a significant challenge, a British naval official said.

The British Royal Navy has deployed its HMS Northumberland to help World Food Program ships reach their destination in Somalia safely.

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HMS Northumberland, as part of the European Union's Atalanta operation, is working with four other European frigates and destroyers in the Somali basin to protect the humanitarian aid from an escalating threat of piracy, the British Ministry of Defense reported.

Despite the highly advanced naval ships, the EU anti-piracy task force faces significant challenges in differentiating between pirates and ordinary fishermen. Officials said the task becomes more of a challenge with 1 million square miles of open sea to protect.

"(The pirate's) success is through the fact that it's not overly sophisticated, so it's difficult to identify," British Lt. Cmdr. Nick Gibbons said in a statement.

"A small potential fishing boat with four or five people on it could one day be fishing but tomorrow could be climbing on board a 300,000-ton tanker -- and that's the difficulty with the operation, that you just can't identify the enemy who's out there."

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