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U.S. Admiral Mark Fitzgerald says commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean should carry armed guards to help defend against Somali pirates.

“The area is enormous and we just do not have enough assets to cover every place in the Indian Ocean,” said Fitzgerald, who commands U.S. Naval Forces in Europe and Africa.

While trying to open a corridor through the Gulf of Aden, some of the pirates have been forced into the Indian Ocean as far away as the Seychelles.

“There has got to be security on these ships in my opinion,” said Fitzgerald. “Those security detachments that are on some of the large commercial ships have been very effective. It is up to the commercial industry to figure out how to deal with this. But I do not think that we can give them a 100 percent guarantee that we can protect them, nor should we.”

Somali pirates have stepped up hijacking attacks in recent months, making tens of millions of dollars in ransom by seizing ships, including oil tankers, despite the presence of dozens of foreign naval vessels. They have been particularly active in recent weeks, and now hold about 20 ships with hundreds of crew members.

The U.S. Navy says it has five to 10 ships, ranging from speed boats to frigates, involved in counter-piracy efforts off the coast of East Africa.

Source: Meredith Buel for Voice of America.

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