Famine fuels resurgence of Somali piracy: US general

"They have been with us every day and every month and every year since", he said. Piracy cost the global economy billions of dollars before a security crackdown-including maritime patrols by a 25-nation task force largely made up of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries and private security contractors-reduced attacks to nearly zero.

The Pentagon chief is accompanied by Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command.

"Some of the vessels that have been taken under hijacking have had some food and some oil on them".

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis expressed concerns about the resurgence of Somali piracy during a visit to the American military base in Djibouti.

In South Sudan alone, more than 100,000 people are suffering from famine with a further million on the brink of starvation. A lack of access to clean water has also contributed to a cholera outbreak of some 13,000 cases. The ship was later released without ransom.

Djibouti has a highly prized port on the Gulf of Aden.

Somali fishermen carry a fish from their vessels to the shores of the Indian Ocean on Liido beach, in Mogadishu, Somalia on November 4, 2016.

Piracy had waned in recent years, but Waldhauser said it had reemerged in the past month, with half a dozen pirate attacks recorded.

The number of attacks peaked in 2011 before dropping to zero, mainly as a result of naval patrols and improved security measures by shipping companies.

The VOA reported that the USA official spoke with French and US troops at Camp Lemonnier on Sunday and met with the Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh and Minister of Defense Ali Hasan Bahdon.

Camp Lemonnier, home to some 4,000 United States soldiers and contractors, is vital to U.S. military operations in Somalia against militant groups like Al-Shabaab, and also provides support for USA operations in Yemen, where special forces regularly carry out drone strikes against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Djibouti is strategically located at the entrance of the Red Sea, and the US pays the country's government around $65 million for maintaining the military base.

Mattis added that while the situation was being watched, he did not expect a US military response to the surge in piracy.

Mattis said that there had been an uptick in piracy during the past months, but that he believed this increase did not yet require any significant USA involvement, adding that civilian mariners and shipping companies should be on alert.

"I have no doubt that the French will continue to make their own decisions in their own best interest and that the terrorists will not enjoy these decisions" after the (French presidential) election, Mattis told reporters.

  • Leroy Wright