(NSI News Source Info) December 21, 2008: Iran has sent a warship on a patrol mission to the Gulf of Aden amid continued reports of ship hijacking by Somali pirates in the region.
According to a report by Fars News Agency, the Iranian warship arrived in the Gulf of Aden after traveling some 4,000 maritime miles and carried out a naval exercise in preparation for a potential clash with the pirates.
The Iranian ship is to join vessels from the US, Denmark, Russia, Italy and other countries to create a security corridor in the pirate-infested waters.
The deployment comes after Somali pirates hijacked the Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship, Delight, operated by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) in the Gulf of Aden in November. The attack was the second since August 21, when Iran's Diyanat ship was boarded by about 40 pirates armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades after passing the Horn of Africa.
The Gulf of Aden, which links the Indian Ocean with the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea, is the quickest route for more than 20,000 vessels going from Asia to Europe and the Americas every year.
International warships have increased cooperation to crack down on buccaneers; however, pirate raids have not abated in the Gulf of Aden. Earlier in December, a member of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Parviz Sarvari warned that Iran is mulling over a military option against Somali pirates.
Attacks by heavily-armed Somali raiders in speedboats have prompted some of the world's biggest shipping firms to switch routes from the Suez Canal and send cargo vessels around southern Africa, causing a hike in shipping costs.
Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center, earlier told AP that there have been more than 100 attacks on ships off the coast of Somalia, resulting in the hijacking of more than 40 vessels so far this year. He added that 14 vessels and more than 250 crewmembers remain in the hands of pirates.