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The Africa of Pirates

· The coasts of the continent are increasingly unsafe ·

The challenge of piracy is one of the most persistent African emergencies and is continually increasing, despite the deployment of imposing international naval operations, especially in the waters off Somalia and in the Indian Ocean, along crucial routes for Eastern goods heading toward Europe and the American continent.

African countries are beginning to add their efforts to international initiatives. While in the Horn of Africa, especially in Somalia, local governments show scarce ability to intervene, something is beginning to move along the Atlantic coast of the continent where commercial navigational safety risks being compromised by pirate action, according to reports from the International Maritime Bureau.

Last week, for example, the first joint patrols of Benin and Nigerian military left from the port of Cotonou, the principal city of Benin, with a fleet of seven ships and began to control part of the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, which has become increasingly a target of pirates. The initiative, called Operation Prosperity, will last six months during which time the Benin navy will begin to organize direct surveillance of its coastal waters.

While the phenomenon of piracy on such a large scale is relatively recent in the Gulf of Guinea, the situation is very different in Somalia and other Horn of Africa countries where assaults on ships have multiplied in recent years, creating a racket of millions of dollars. In the beginning, Islamic courts attempted to combat the situation in the areas under their control, but various local sources say that radical Islamic militias have now allied themselves with the Somali clans that directly control some pirate cells.

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