Arabs plan anti-piracy joint force


Saying it was necessary to prevent the spread of piracy to the Red Sea or the Gulf, 11 regional states agreed to set up an all-Arab Navy Task Force, to be led at the outset by the Saudis, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The delegates to the conference in the Saudi capital stressed the “importance of the exclusion of the Red Sea from any international arrangements, especially the fight against sea piracy.”

Royal Saudi Navy commander Lieutenant General Prince Fahd Bin Abdullah told journalists: “This subject is now under negotiation and we are hoping to reach an agreement to form this force.”

Joining the talks were representatives from Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Prince Fahd said part of the effort would be to design ways of cooperating with the flotillas from some 20 foreign countries now patrolling sea lanes in the Gulf of Aden and off the Horn of Africa to stop pirate attacks.

“One of the objectives of the meeting is to discuss joint Arab coordination with multinational forces operating in the region to combat piracy and to agree on the mechanisms of the Arab contribution” to these efforts, he said.

He said that the Gulf states were involved in the proposed task force because of the danger posed to their shipping, particularly vital oil and gas exports which pass via the Red Sea to the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean.

A joint statement said the Saudi navy will coordinate efforts by the other Arab naval commands on the Red Sea and Gulf for a period of one year and then review the results.

Another meeting on the issue will be scheduled in two months, it said.
More than 70 vessels, including a fully-laden Saudi oil supertanker, have been hijacked for ransom by Somali pirates in the past two years. Despite patrols by a raft of foreign navies, attacks are still frequently reported.

Saudi Arabia has said in recent months that it has stepped up its high-seas patrols for pirates.

The International Maritime Bureau has reported a handful of attempted pirate attacks, none successful, at the southern end of the Red Sea this year, mostly in the strategically important Bab Al-Mandab strait linking to the Gulf of Aden.

The bureau recorded no attacks in the Red Sea last year.

Yemeni plane crashes in Comoros, 150 on board


Khaleej Times: An airliner with 150 people on board belonging to Yemeni state carrier Yemenia Air crashed in the Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros on Tuesday, a senior government official said.

‘We don’t know if there are any survivors among the 150 people on the plane,’ Comoros vice-president Idi Nadhoim told Reuters from the airport at the main island’s capital Moroni.

Nadhoim said the accident happened in the early hours of Tuesday, but could not give any more details.

The location was not immediately known, but a medical worker in the town of Mitsamiouli, on the main island Grande Comore, said he had been called into the local hospital.

‘They have just called me to come to the hospital. They said a plane had crashed,’ he told Reuters.

A Comoran police source said the plane was believed to have come down in the sea. ‘We really have no sea rescue capabilities,’ he added.

The Comoros covers three small volcanic islands, Grande Comore, Anjouan and Moheli, in the Mozambique channel, 300 km (190 miles) northwest of Madagascar and a similar distance east of the African mainland.

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