Australia to send warship to combat Somali pirates

CANBERRA, May 29 (Reuters) - An Australian warship will join international efforts to combat pirates operating from Somalia, the government said in Friday.

Australia will send a frigate and maritime patrol aircraft currently on Persian Gulf security duties to join anti-piracy operations in and near the Gulf of Aden, Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said in a statement.

"The contribution will help to curb piracy in the region, protect Australian and international maritime trade and underline our commitment to targeted increased engagement with Africa," Fitzgibbon said.

Somali pirates have in recent months seized several cargo ships and collected millions of dollars in ransom for the safe release of crew and cargo.

In 2008 there were 111 pirate attacks in the region, with 42 successful hijackings. This year, around 100 attacks have been registered, including more than 25 successful hijackings, Fitzgibbon said.

Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Bill Tarrant