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China to launch Mekong patrols next month: report
by Staff Writers
Shanghai (AFP) Nov 27, 2011

China will next month launch joint patrols with three other countries on the Mekong River, a key waterway where 13 Chinese sailors were killed in an October attack, state media said.

The patrols, which official media has previously said would be armed, will begin by December 15, the state Xinhua news agency said late Saturday.

Chinese police will join forces from Laos, Myanmar and Thailand to restore shipping and guarantee security, it said, quoting China's Ministry of Public Security following a meeting of the four countries.

The sailors died in a raid on two Chinese cargo boats on the Mekong on October 5 -- an attack thought to have been carried out by a notorious gang in the "Golden Triangle" area known for drug smuggling.

Police in Thailand have since detained nine soldiers suspected of killing the sailors, and also thought to have links to a Myanmar drug kingpin.

The Mekong flows through China's southwestern province of Yunnan into Southeast Asia, serving as a major trade route through several countries including Cambodia and Vietnam.

China reacted angrily to the October attack, summoning diplomatic envoys from Thailand, Laos and Myanmar and asking authorities to speed up investigations into the incident.

Beijing has taken the lead in the initiative to start patrols and Xinhua said China would set up a headquarters for the effort, able to communicate with offices in the other three countries on a 24-hour basis.

Police in the four countries would explore more ways to improve security on the waterway, and China will help train and equip police in Laos and Myanmar for the patrols, the report said.

After the October attack, China sent patrol boats down the Mekong to escort 164 stranded Chinese sailors and 28 cargo ships home.

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Italian navy aids ship freed from Somali pirates
Rome (AFP) Nov 26, 2011 - An Italian navy ship Saturday came to the aid of a merchant vessel released by Somali pirates after over seven months in captivity, with news reports saying a ransom was dropped from a small plane.

"Considering what they have lived through, the crew are well," said Gualtiero Mattesi, an admiral who also heads NATO's anti-piracy operation "

Ocean Shield, speaking from the navy destroyer on the scene.

"Military teams today boarded the 'Rosalia D'Amato' to guarantee the safety of the crew," he said, adding that the ship was still in Somali waters but would head out once the necessary checks have been carried out.

Reports that the ship with six Italians and 15 Filipinos on board had been released surfaced on Friday but were only confirmed on Saturday.

Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi voiced "strong satisfaction" over the release, saying it had been "a painful experience."

The 225-metre (738-foot) vessel belonging to Naples-based Perseveranza had been on its way from Brazil to Iran with a cargo of soybeans when it was seized by pirates off the coast of Oman on April 21 and taken back to Somalia.

"In five or six days the crew will probably be back in Italy," Carlo Miccio, a representative of Perseveranza, told reporters.

Corriere della Sera daily quoted ship captain Orazio Lanza as saying: "We've lost a bit of weight but all in all we're okay."

The newspaper said a ransom had been paid but did not specify the sum, saying only that it was dropped onto the ship by a plane.

Somali pirates still hold at least 27 large vessels, 19 smaller ones and a total of more than 450 seafarers, according to Ecoterra International, a non-governmental group monitoring maritime activity in the region.

Among the ships still hijacked is the Savina Caylyn, a tanker operated by another Naples-based shipowner and hijacked in February with a crew of five Italians and 17 Indians.


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EU short on anti-piracy ships due to budget cuts
Brussels (AFP) Nov 22, 2011
The EU anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia is facing a shortage of ships as budget cuts are limiting the ability to deploy military assets, the EU's top military officer said Wednesday. General Hakan Syren, chairman of the EU Military Committee, said the Atalanta operation requires a minimum of four to six warships to patrol the coast but that it would fall "below the red line" in D ... read more

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