Russian warships to regularly patrol sea off Somali coast

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Moscow, Nov 20 (UNI) Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky today said Russia will deploy its warships off the coast of East Africa on a regular basis to prevent pirate attacks on merchant ships.

''The reason for the move is the current developments off the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden, where Somali pirates have intensified their activity,'' Adm Vysotsky said.

His announcement comes as the UN Security Council is set to meet today to discuss a new resolution imposing a travel ban and asset freeze on Somalis and Somali companies and organisations that violate the arms embargo, support acts threatening peace, and hinder the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The US Defence Department yesterday said there had been 95 piracy attacks reported in the region this year, 39 of which were successful.

''There are at least 18 ships being held by Somali pirates as we speak,'' Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

''I believe our count is that 330 mariners are being held hostage by these criminals. And they come from 25 nations across the world,'' he said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his quarterly report to the UN Security Council yesterday that pirates were estimated to have received up to 30 million dollars in ransoms this year.

Last month, Russia sent the Neustrashimy missile frigate from the Northern Fleet to Somalia's coast to protect Russian vessels in the country's waters.

The Russian warship has prevented the seizure of at least two foreign vessels in the area.

UNI XC SKB AS1818

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