(Report on telephone interview with Admiral Giovanni Gumiero, commander of NATO naval operation against piracy, by Massimo A. Alberizzi: " Italy Leading the Hunt for Pirates: 'Ready To Use Force'": place and date not given.)
Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo - Finally, the pirates who operate off Somalia will not have an easy life. The battleships tasked by NATO with making the waters of the Horn of Africa secure - battleships that are under the command of Italian Admiral Giovanni Gumiero - are ready to use force, including using cannons, to defend cargo ships at risk of being assaulted. Last year, the pirates seized around 100 cargo ships, and obtained ransoms worth several million dollars. "Our mandate is clear," said the officer who leads the task force from the missile destroyer Luigi Durand de la Penne. "We are tasked with escorting the ships of the UN World Food Programme that carry food and aid for the people of Somalia . We have patrol duties: if we receive requests for help or realize that ships are being assaulted, we do not rule out the use of force, as stipulated by the rules of engagement."
This is a Copernican revolution for the battleships - which so far, being devoid of any international legal support, have almost never dared to act in defense of those assaulted by pirates. Now that the UN has approved the anti-piracy mission, the pirates of the 21st century risk being sunk.
According to Andrew Mwangura, who coordinates the monitoring of the Indian Ocean via the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, one cargo ship is attacked every day. Luckily, not all assaults are successful. Yesterday, the Italian destroyer set off from the Kenyan port of Mombasa to sail towards the north of Somalia , in the most difficult waters, where the Gulf of Oman (as published) meets the Indian Ocean and where the pirates' "mother ships" sail. Small fast boats set off from these to attack their prey.
Admiral Gumiero's voice on the satellite phone was clear, but the line dropped three or four times. "We will escort the ships carrying humanitarian aid into the ports of Mogadishu , Marka, and Berbera." The cargo ships will be escorted up to a few miles off the coast. In the capital, they will be received by the motor patrol boats of AMISOM (African Mission in Somalia), in Berbera this task will be carried out by the government of Somaliland (the former British colony that 17 years ago proclaimed independence, which nobody has recognized), and in Marka (70km south of Mogadishu) the UN has tasked a local militia to protect the merchant ships until arrival." (Quotation marks as published)
Obviously, one hopes to avoid close encounters with pirates. "We are counting on the deterrent effect. Knowing that we intend to react with determination, the pirates could abandon attempting new assaults," Gumiero said. The Italian officer leads a group of seven ships, but only three will take part in the operation in Somali waters (the British Cumberland and the Greek Themistokels, on top of the Durand de la Penne). The other four (two German ships, one Turkish, and a US one) will continue patrolling the Gulf (not further specified).
"Our task off the coast of Somalia will end in mid December," the admiral said. "At that point, we will pass the baton to a European Union naval group." The day before yesterday, Brussels gave the go ahead for the setting up of an EU anti-piracy force in the Indian Ocean . However, (Italian Foreign) Undersecretary Alfredo Mantica has ruled out Italy 's participation for the time being. "We will hand over to them the information we gather across these weeks," Gumiero added. "Anyway, with our timely arrival in the areas of operation we have shown that NATO is able to react rapidly across a wide area."
Translated from: Corriera Della sera in Italian