Iran has sent two warships to the Gulf of Aden to protect oil tankers and other vessels from the world’s fifth-largest crude exporter against attacks by pirates off the coast of Somalia, state radio said on Thursday. Pirate attacks, fuelled by large ransoms, have continued almost unabated despite the presence of an armada of foreign warships patrolling the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.

BRITHISH CREWIn January, pirates released an Iranian-chartered cargo ship carrying 36,000 tonnes of wheat to Iran from Germany that was seized in November. In March, a regional maritime official said Somali villagers had detained another Iranian vessel. “The mission of these warships is to protect Iranian merchant ships and oil tankers against pirate attacks,” state radio said.They would arrive in the Gulf of Aden in the next two days and stay there for five months, state television said.

Iran said in December it had dispatched a warship to the same waters, but Thursday’s reports did not say whether it was still there. Nearly 20,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden each year, heading to and from the Suez Canal. Seven percent of world oil consumption passed through the Gulf of Aden in 2007, according to Lloyd’s Marine Intelligence Unit. Analysts say the only way to stop bandits on the high seas is to resolve Somalia’s political crisis on land where pirates profit from lawlessness as Islamist-led rebels fight government troops and African Union peacekeepers.



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