Nigeria and Benin mount patrols as piracy soars

Armed man on coast of Somalia with MV Filitsa, seized by pirates, in distance - 26 January 2010 The Gulf of Guinea has been put in the same category of risk as Somalia

Nigeria and its West African neighbour, Benin, have begun joint naval patrols in an effort to combat the threat of pirates.

The Gulf of Guinea has this year seen a marked increase in the number of attacks in its waters.

Last month, a group of London-based insurers rated part of its coast in the same high-risk category as Somalia.

The International Maritime Bureau says there have so far been 19 attacks off Benin's coast this year.

According to the bureau, which monitors such attacks, none were recorded off the same coast in 2010.

Emmanual Ogbor, head of Nigeria's western naval command, says that the reason for the increase is clear.

He says tough action from his ships has forced the pirates into areas where they can operate freely.

The joint patrols will initially last for six months and involve six Nigerian ships and helicopters with the Beninois initially contributing two vessels.

Although the joint operation is being dressed up an equal partnership, this is all about Nigeria helping out its neighbour to the west.

A spokesman from Benin's navy said the attacks had scared ships away and deeply affected the country's economy.

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