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Somali regions vow to oust pirates from enclaves

* Interim central authority, Puntland to work together

* Widespread piracy continues nearly unabated

* Puntland has cut off supplies to hijacked ship

NAIROBI, April 13 (Reuters) - Somalia's interim government and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland vowed on Tuesday to work together to attack pirate lairs along the Horn of Africa nation's coast to try to stem a spate of hijackings. Somali sea gangs continue to roam the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, seizing vessels and their crews and making off with millions of dollars in ransoms, while international warships patrol the vast seas in a desperate bid to stop them. "Our forces are joining troops of (the interim government) and are going to face and fight against the pirates and their operations in Puntland's coast," Puntland Interior Minister Abdullahi Ahmed Ilkajiir told reporters in Kenya's capital.

Pirates take advantage of Somalia's lack of central control since the 1991 ousting of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre to create havens mainly in the northeast region of Puntland whose authorities, critics say, turn a blind eye.

A cash bonanza from ransoms has filled pirate coffers and led to an influx of gleaming cars, new villas and luxury goods into areas in Puntland, which declared itself independent in the early 1990s when Somalia was plunged into anarchy and civil war. [ID:nLDE6380CC]

Puntland security officials and residents of an area where pirates are holding the Bermuda-flagged MV Talca said the region had sent troops to cut supplies to pirates on that ship.

But the pirates warned Puntland not to underestimate them.

"If this blockade is not lifted soon, the prime victims will be the crew. They will no longer get food and water," pirate Abdi told Reuters from the MV Talca.

"They think they are hurting us alone. We shall eat, but the crew will not if this continues."

An international flotilla patrols the area -- one of the world's busiest shipping lanes -- with only sporadic success in stopping the hijackings of cargo and other vessels.

Russia's U.N. envoy said earlier this month that the piracy was getting worse, partly due to the legal limbo that has led some countries to release captured suspects. [ID:nN06228013]

Analysts say it will be difficult to solve the problem without first tackling Somalia's onshore security challenges. Islamist rebels control large swathes of the nation and the interim government is hemmed into small portions of the capital.

Somalia's western-backed government has battled al Shabaab rebels, who have professed loyalty to al Qaeda, and Hizbul Islam militants for several years and has vowed over the last few months to launch a major offensive. (Additional reporting by Abdi Guled and Abdi Sheikh in Mogadishu; Writing by Jack Kimball; Editing by Richard Lough and Sonya Hepinstall) (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit:

af.reuters.com/

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