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Somalia Islamists vow tough anti-piracy drive

world Updated: Nov 19, 2008 22:04 IST

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A hardline Islamist alliance controlling Somalia's main southern port of Kismayo on Wednesday promised tough measures to protect ships and traders from marauding pirates.

"We will set up marine forces and will protect all ships and vessels from the pirates off the coastal areas we control," Sheikh Hasan Yaqub, spokesman for the Islamist administration in Kismayo told AFP.

Somali pirates have become at the centre of new international attention after a group hijacked an oil-laden Saudi super-tanker on Saturday.

Kismayo, one off the largest cities in Somalia, was captured in August by an alliance of Shebab fighters -- who are conquering much of the country -- and warlord Hassan al-Turki, who is on a US terrorism list.

Yaqub said that on Wednesday alone, 20 small ships bringing goods from the United Arab Emirates had offloaded their cargo in Kismayo under the watch of the local authorities' security forces.

"We will never allow those gangs to cause havoc in our waters anymore and we will protect all vessels," he said.

Omar Abdiyare, one of the Somali traders whose vessel arrived in Kismayo today, said local businesses had asked the Islamist rulers to set up an anti-piracy force.

"We are very concerned at the growing number of attacks by pirates so we asked Islamists to protect our ships as much as possible off the coastal areas they control," he said.

The Kismayo administration has imposed a very strict form of Sharia law in recent weeks.