Successful pirate attacks off Somalia have dropped sharply this year amid stepped up enforcement, but the longer term outlook remains uncertain, senior US officials said.
However, the officials told lawmakers the United States has no plans for now to pursue pirates inside Somalia, the source of a surge in attacks on merchant shipping in the Gulf of Aden last year.
“While we sought authority in negotiations for the UN Security Council resolution to any country willing to take it, we do not plan at this time to conduct counter-piracy operations on land,” said US Ambassador Stephen Mull, acting under secretary of state for international security.
Mull said seven suspected Somali pirates were transferred to Kenya on Thursday for prosecution, the first batch since Washington and Nairobi agreed in mid January on the handling of pirate cases.
Prosecutions are seen as a key to deterring more ship seizures and hostage takings, which pirates have launched with virtual impunity from Somali bases over the past year.
The attacks took off in the last six months of 2008 as Somali pirates targeted ships in the Gulf of Aden, reaping millions of dollars in ransom as the world’s navies looked on.