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Fleet to depart for pirate crackdown mission
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Two Chinese naval destroyers and a supply ship will depart for the waters off the Somali coast after the upcoming Christmas Day to take part in an international campaign to crack down on rampant piracy there.

The fleet will set off from Sanya in south China's island province of Hainan, and the first stage of the mission will last about three months, the Global Times reported on Thursday.

The expedition, the first of its kind by the Chinese navy in the area, was decided in response to the rising threat from pirates off the coast of Somalia which has netted millions of dollars in ransoms this year.

The Chinese ship "Zhenhua 4", for instance, managed to escape a pirate hijack on Wednesday in the Gulf of Aden, becoming the latest Chinese mainland ship to be attacked in the area.

In November, a Chinese fishing boat, 'Tian Yu 8', was hijacked in the area with the 24 member crew onboard held hostage.

The Gulf of Aden is one of the busiest waterways in the world, lying between Somalia and Yemen, with some 20,000 ships sailing through it each year.

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to authorize nations to conduct land and air attacks on pirate bases along the coast of Somalia.

China's Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei said in the U.S. on Tuesday, "China is seriously considering sending naval ships to the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somali coast to escort vessels in the near future".

To date, navies from 16 countries have so far launched patrols in the waters to fend off pirate attacks that have victimized more than 40 ships and 600 seamen this year.

(CRI December 18, 2008)

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