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Last Updated: Friday, 5 May 2006, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Anti-piracy centre opens in Kenya
Pirates off the coast of Somalia
Pirates have taken advantage of the lack of a Somali government
A maritime rescue centre, designed to provide a rapid response to acts of piracy and accidents at sea, has been launched in the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

The centre was set up to combat the increasing attacks on shipping in the Indian Ocean off the coast of neighbouring Somalia, officials say.

Pirates have hijacked some 40 ships in the last year, making the Somali waters the world's most dangerous.

The centre has satellite technology to detect distress signals, officials say.

This should enable help to be mobilised more quickly than existing systems.

The $1.6m Regional Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre was part funded by the UN's International Maritime Organization.

US patrols

"The centre will be very useful in detecting maritime disasters in east Africa and combating piracy along the Somali waters," Andrew Mwangura of the Mombasa-based Seafarers Assistance Programme told Reuters news agency.

Hijackings and piracy off have surged in the past year as armed groups take advantage of a lack of law and order in Somalia, which has been without an effective central government since 1991.

US warships have recently arrested several alleged pirates off the Somali coast but the US has played down reports that it has signed a deal to combat pirates with the interim government of Somalia.

Some have gone on trial in Mombasa but others have been released amid disputes about whether the US has the right to make arrests in Somali waters.

Some of those arrested have said they were trying to stop illegal fishing.



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