- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2008

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (AP) - NATO says its fleet of seven ships sailing toward the Somali coast will start anti-piracy operations within days.

Alliance spokesman James Appathurai said Wednesday that the NATO ships will be tasked with escorting cargo ships chartered by the U.N. World Food Program to carry shipments to Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, mainly from South Africa and Kenya.

They also will mount patrols to deter pirate attacks on other vessels sailing through the area.

About 20,000 ships pass annually through the Gulf of Aden, a strategically important body of water on the route between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean. Piracy in the shipping lanes off the Somali coast has been on the rise, with at least 74 attacks reported so far in 2008.

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