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Somali Pirate Attacks Drop to Lowest Level in 3 Years

  • VOA News

Kismayo, Somalia

Kismayo, Somalia

A new report on piracy says the number of ships targeted by Somali pirates has dropped to its lowest level since 2009, but hijackings are up in the Gulf of Guinea.

The report Monday from the International Maritime Bureau said Somali pirates carried out 70 attacks in the first nine months of this year, down from 199 in the same period the year before.

It said just one ship reported an attempted Somali pirate attack between July and September, compared to 36 reports in the same three months in 2011.

IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan told VOA that international navies have been "critical" in reducing acts of piracy off Somalia.

"They can do things that neither private armed security nor ship owners can do, which is to go after [pirate] motherships and board them, remove their weapons, and remove their equipment before they get into a position where they pose a threat to merchant ships," said Mukundan.

The shipping industry group said Somali pirates also have been deterred by ships using armed guards and adopting other onboard security measures.

The IMB report noted that piracy in the Gulf of Guinea - off West Africa - is becoming "increasingly dangerous" with 34 incidents in the first nine months of this year, up from 30 in the corresponding period last year.

The group said pirates are hijacking ships to steal refined oil products that can be easily sold on the open market.

Mukundan noted the pirates have increased the breadth of their attacks.

"They seem to have gone well and truly transnational. What last year was purely a Nigerian problem appears now to have spread to the neighboring countries of Benin and Togo. And since the end of September, there has been an attack in Abidjan in Ivory Coast, where a tanker was hijacked," said Mukundan.

It said the pirates cover their tracks by damaging communications and navigation equipment onboard the targeted vessels.

Despite the reduction in piracy off Somalia, Mukundan said there can be "no room for complacency" and called for the naval presence in the region to be maintained.

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