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Navy to fight pirates in Somali waters
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Soldiers from a peacekeeping group wait at a hotel near the Beijing International Airport yesterday pending a call for their flight to Liberia. The 275 members from an engineering battalion, the first group of China's seventh peacekeeping detachment to the African country, left yesterday. The second group, comprising transport and medical personnel, is scheduled to depart on Dec 29.

China will send its navy ships to Somali waters to combat pirates, the Foreign Ministry announced yesterday.

It will be the first operation of its kind and the first active deployment of the country's warships beyond the Pacific.

"We have decided to send navy vessels to crack down on Somali pirates Preparations are under way," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters at a regular news briefing without giving details of the mission.

Two destroyers and a large supply ship would be part of the Chinese fleet, Beijing-based Global Times quoted unnamed maritime sources as having said yesterday. The ships will leave Sanya, Hainan province, after Christmas on a three-month mission.

The announcement came hours after nine pirates attacked a Chinese cargo ship with 30 crewmen in Somali waters on Wednesday.

But Zhenhua 4, owned by China Communications Construction Co, was rescued by two warships and a helicopter of Malaysia.

"China deeply appreciates the effective assistance from Malaysia and relevant international organizations," Liu said.

Peng Weiyuan, captain of the ship, told China Central Television over the phone that the crew used "water cannon, self-made incendiary bombs, beer bottles and other missiles to battle with the pirates".

"Thirty minutes later, the pirates gestured to us for a ceasefire then the helicopter from the joint fleet came to our help," he said.

Twenty percent of the 1,265 Chinese ships that have passed through the waters in the first 11 months of this year, have faced such attacks, Liu said. Seven of these ships were hijacked, and the pirates were still holding a Chinese fishing ship and 18 sailors.

To deal with the piracy menace, the UN unanimously adopted a resolution on Tuesday, giving countries battling pirates in Somali waters one year to take action against them inside the country.

On Wednesday, Somalia had welcomed China's decision that it could send navy ships to tackle piracy.

"As a friend of the Somali people and victim of piracy," China can play a vital role in combating the scourge in Somali waters, Somalia's Parliament Speaker Sheik Aden Madoobe told Xinhua in the southern town of Baidoa, the seat of Somalia's parliament.

Peng Guangqian, a senior expert with the Academy of Military Sciences, said the Chinese navy has "full confidence in fulfilling the new mission".

(China Daily December 19, 2008)


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