Gulf of Guinea pirate plan discussed
Cotonou - West African military and political officials met on Tuesday in Benin to discuss strategies to combat a surge in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea that has raised alarm in the shipping industry.
The three-day meeting of officials from Benin, Ghana and Togo was to focus on attacks that have seen pirates hijack tankers off the west African coast and steal fuel or oil cargo to sell on the region's lucrative black market.
Experts from the United Nations, European Union and the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States also took part.
"We are putting an emphasis on pre-emptive strategies," Benin chief of defence staff Mathieu Boni told journalists.
General Bruno Clement-Bollee, head of security co-operation with the French foreign ministry, said the meeting was aimed at "bringing together national and international experts to define concerted strategies between regional states to combat this phenomenon".
Benin has seen at least 20 piracy incidents off its coast this year, compared with none last year.
In September, it launched joint patrols with its giant neighbour Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer and where piracy has long been a problem.
Attacks have however continued to occur, with a tanker hijacked off Nigeria's coast on October 30 with 25 crew on board.
Its cargo was transferred to a barge before the ship was released along with its crew on Friday, according to the International Maritime Bureau.