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Swedish troops join Somali pirate mission

Storyline:National News

The soldiers are heading to the Gulf of Aden, just north of Somalia as part of Sweden’s fourth mission to the region.

Unlike in previous years they will not be stationed there on their own warships, but will instead be based on a giant Dutch ship until the spring, as part of a mission called Operation Atlanta.

“Swedes speak good English and we are close to each other culturally so it will be easy to work together,” Dutch soldier Leo de Haan told Swedish broadcaster SVT on Friday.

“We are a small country with a small defense budget so we need to work together. It is more efficient for both countries,” added the ship’s manager Rene Luyckx.

Piracy in the Western Indian Ocean has presented what the EU describes as a “growing threat to security, international shipping and development” since the mid-2000s.

In 2011 at the peak of their activity three years ago, Somali pirates captured more than 30 ships and held more than 700 crew members, according to EU data. The pirates demanded huge ransoms from both governments and private businesses.

The number of attacks dropped dramatically after the EU as well as China and the US stationed ships in the area, but the EU is continuing to maintain a strong presence and in 2014 decided to extend its operation there until 2016.

As well as involving Dutch and Swedish troops, Operation Atlanta includes military experts of fourteen other nationalities.

“It is an adventure…to see something new and help others,” Tina Nilsson, a Swedish soldier heading on the latest mission said.

The soldiers have been specially trained in how to board boats that are captured by Somali pirates, and have also been given briefings on the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab, which has a growing presence in the region.