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Australia joins fight against piracy

Sydney: Australia has joined the initiative against piracy in the Gulf of Aden and has announced plans to send a warship HMAS Warramunga and a surveillance aircraft to the area. Both are currently patrolling in the Persian Gulf region.

According to a report by AFP, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Australia was "stepping up to the plate" to help foil the hijacking of ships for ransom. "We believe it's part of Australia putting its shoulder to the wheel, together with our friends, our partners, our allies to make a material difference to security in the region," he is reported as having said.

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said the decision would enable Australia to provide a robust and effective contribution to anti-piracy efforts. "Piracy is a threat to global maritime security, including to Australia's merchant trade and to Australian tourists passing through the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal," he said in a statement.

Warships operating under US, European Union and NATO commands, as well as independent vessels from nations including China and Russia, are currently operating in the troubled region to thwart hijackings.

Richard Farrington, chief of staff of the EU Naval Force, has said there are currently 25 warships patrolling the region, but there would need to be 60 in the Gulf of Aden and 150 off Somalia to effectively tackle the problem.

Calls for more concerted action have risen as attacks off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden have escalated -- piracy watchdogs say there have been 114 attempted hijackings so far this year, compared with 111 over the whole of 2008.  [29/05/09]

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