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Rediff.com  » News » In PICS: The RUTHLESS world of modern-day pirates

In PICS: The RUTHLESS world of modern-day pirates

Last updated on: September 15, 2011 15:51 IST

In PICS: The RUTHLESS world of modern-day pirates

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Jaishree Balasubramanian in Kuala Lumpur

Over 260 pirate attacks were witnessed on world's seas in the first six months of the year, most of them by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea, but the number of hijacks went down due to strong international naval patrolling on the Eastern coast of Africa.

The International Marime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre said the year 2011 saw a total of 266 attacks in the first half of the year, up from 196 incidents in the same period last year.

More than 60 per cent of the attacks were by Somali pirates, a majority of which were in the Arabian Sea area, said the report, Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships. As of June 30, Somali pirates were holding 20 vessels and 420 crew, and demanding ransoms of millions of dollars for their release.

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Image: A Somalian militant talks on his mobile phone in Rabdure district, 400 km (248 miles) west of Somalian capital Mogadishu
Photographs: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters
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Most attacks have been directed towards crude oil tankers

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"In the last six months, Somali pirates attacked more vessels than ever before and they're taking higher risks," said IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan.

"This June, for the first time, pirates fired on ships in rough seas in the Indian Ocean during the monsoon season. In the past, they would have stayed away in such difficult conditions. Masters should remain vigilant," he said.

In the first six months, many of the attacks have been east and north-east of the Gulf of Aden, an area frequented by crude oil tankers sailing from the Arabian Gulf, as well as other traffic sailing into the Gulf of Aden.

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Image: Estonian marines 'fast-rope' from a Sea Lynx MK 88 helicopter onto the helicopter flight deck aboard the German Frigate 'Hamburg' off the coast of Djibouti
Photographs: Bundeswehr/Reuters
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'Naval presence be sustained or increased'

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Since May 20, 14 vessels have been attacked in the Southern Red Sea. "It is necessary that shipboard protection measures are in place as they sail through this area," Mukundan said.

However, though Somali pirates were more active -- 163 attacks this year up from 100 in the first six months of 2010 -- they managed to hijack fewer ships, 21 in the first half of 2011 compared with 27 in the same period last year.

The report attributed this to increased ship hardening and to the actions of international naval forces to disrupt pirate groups off the east coast of Africa.

"It is vital that this naval presence be sustained or increased," the report cautioned.

Somali pirates took 361 sailors hostage and kidnapped 13 in the first six months of 2011. Worldwide, 495 seafarers were taken hostage.

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Image: South Korean naval Special Forces take up positions during an operation to rescue crew members on the Samho Jewelry vessel in the Arabian Sea
Photographs: South Korean Navy/Reuters
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The pirates brandish automatic weapons

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Pirates also killed seven people and injured 39. Ninety-nine vessels were boarded, 76 fired upon and 62 thwarted attacks were reported. Ships, including oil and chemical tankers, are increasingly being attacked with automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade launchers.

Whereas five years ago pirates were just as likely to brandish a knife as a gun, this year guns were used in 160 attacks and knives in 35.  

A surge in particularly violent and highly organised attacks has hit the coast of West Africa this year, the piracy reporting centre said, listing 12 attacks on tankers off Benin since March, an area where no incidents were reported in 2010.

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Image: A Kenya Police officer arranges an exhibit of weapons used by suspected Somali pirates at the law court in Mombasa
Photographs: Joseph Okanga/Reuters
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The pirates are brutal and merciless

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Five vessels were hijacked and forced to sail to unknown locations, where pirates ransacked and stole the vessel's equipment, and part of their product oil cargoes. Six more tankers were boarded, mainly in violent armed robbery style attacks, and one attempted attack was reported.

Overall, 50 incidents were recorded for Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore Straits and the South China Seas in the first two quarters of 2011. Three tugs were hijacked by armed pirates and 41 vessels were boarded.


Image: Pirates are seen on board the deck of the Chinese ship Zhenhua 4 in the Gulf of Aden

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