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Europe

NATO Pledges Second Anti-Piracy Operation

NATO has said it will launch a second anti-piracy naval mission off the coast of Somalia in the spring. German, Dutch and Spanish ships in the area would be involved in the brief operation.

Three German soldiers in a dinghy

The NATO mission would run parallel to the EU's Atalanta mission

The mission, which was backed by NATO defense ministers at an informal meeting in the Polish city of Krakow on Thursday, Feb. 19, will provide "a considerable strengthening" of international anti-piracy efforts, said NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

"We are also seeing the end of the monsoon season so I would not be surprised if piracy goes up again," said Scheffer.

The operation would involve vessels from a six-ship standing naval group as they sail to Singapore and Australia, via the Gulf of Aden, on a series of port visits. Parts of the trip would be altered to allow for a short anti-piracy mission.

Germany, the Netherlands and Spain have ships in the group.

EU mission currently in place

Four NATO warships and several helicopters patrolled the Gulf of Aden and escorted World Food Program vessels carrying aid to Africa on behalf of the UN between October and December. The mission helped deliver 30,000 metric tons (33,000 tons) of humanitarian aid to Somalia, NATO said.

The alliance formally handed over operations to the European Union's Atalanta mission on Dec. 14. The new mission would cooperate closely with Atalanta and other players in the region.

"It is an enormous stretch of water, so the ships will not get into each other's way," the NATO chief said.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, pirates attacked more than 130 merchant ships in the Gulf of Aden last year, more than double than in the previous year. More than 150 suspected pirates were arrested in the region in 2008.

NATO defense ministers are holding informal talks in Krakow through Friday. They are scheduled to hold talks with prospective NATO members Ukraine and Georgia.

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