Speculation on anti-pirates role for Plymouth-based HMS Ocean
DEFENCE chiefs have not ruled out sending Plymouth troops to Somalia to target pirate bases.
A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman in Devonport Naval Base yesterday told The Herald that "no decision" has been made to deploy HMS Ocean to the troubled east African region.
It follows widespread speculation in the national press that Prime Minister David Cameron has secretly ordered plans for military raids along the Somali coast.
It has been reported that Somali pirates attacked 400 international ships last year, hijacking more than 100 and taking thousands of hostages since 2008.
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The speculation suggests that one of the options being considered to tackle the problem is to deploy Plymouth's helicopter carrier, HMS Ocean, which is manned by sailors and Royal Marines.
Last year the warship hit the headlines after it was successfully used to launch Apache attack helicopters to defeat Libyan targets.
HMS Ocean returned to a heroes' welcome in Devonport on December 9 and was being prepared for a maintenance period in the naval base.
But the vessel is still alongside in the naval base, where she docked in December.
An MoD spokeswoman said: "We have not made any announcements about plans to send her [HMS Ocean] back out.
"It's difficult to comment on speculation. No decisions have been made.
"HMS Ocean was due to go into a maintenance period in Devonport. Work has been carried out on her since she arrived back alongside on December 9."
Yesterday Mr Cameron hosted an international summit in London which was attended by representatives of more than 50 countries and international organisations.
The high-level summit focused on the crisis-stricken state.
During the event Mr Cameron said the world will "pay a price" if it ignores the plight of Somalia and called for further action against the pirates.
He said that it was in the interests of the international community to help restore stability after two decades of turmoil.
"These problems in Somalia don't just affect Somalia," he said.
"They affect us all. In a country where there is no hope, chaos, violence and terrorism thrive.
"Pirates are disrupting vital trade routes and kidnapping tourists.
"Young minds are being poisoned by radicalism, breeding terrorism that is threatening the security of the whole world.
"If the rest of us just sit back and look on, we will pay a price for doing so."