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Sunday, March 7, 2010


Pirate attacks intensify off coast of East Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya – Signaling a new offensive mind-set, international military officials stepped up the fight against pirates Friday as swarms of Somalis moved into the waters off East Africa.

Four shootouts with pirates showed that high-seas attacks are intensifying with the end of the monsoon season.

Nearly half the 47 ships hijacked off Somalia last year were taken in March and April, the most dangerous months of the year for ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

In the most serious skirmish Friday, six pirates chased a French fishing boat, said Cmdr. John Harbour, spokesman for the European Union Naval Force. A French military detachment onboard a nearby ship approached the pirate skiff and collided with it, sinking it. Four pirates were rescued and two were missing.

In a second incident Friday, the EU Naval Force intercepted one mothership and two skiffs that had attacked a French vessel. The naval force said it destroyed the boats and took 11 pirates into custody.

In the third and fourth attacks, pirates assaulted two Spanish tuna fishing boats off the coast of Kenya, Spain's Defense Ministry said. Between air support and the private guards on the boats, they repelled the attack.

Crews are successfully repelling more attacks, making it harder for pirates to capture ships and earn ransoms.

Last year, the average ransom was around $2 million, according to piracy expert Roger Middleton of the British think tank Chatham House. This year, two ransoms paid were around $3 million and $7 million, he said.

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