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Piracy Alert Issued for Ships Sailing Off Somali Coast

The International Maritime Bureau has issued a piracy alert to ships passing off the coast of Somalia. The alert is contained within the bureau's Weekly Piracy Report, which monitors incidents of piracy in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Ocean regions.

The report covering the first week of June says there had been five gun and grenade attacks within the past two months on ships passing Somalia's coastline.

The bureau, an office of the International Chamber of Commerce, urges ships to stay about 100 miles off Somalia's coastline, especially in the country's northeastern and eastern areas.

The deputy director of the International Maritime Bureau, Captain Jayand Abhyankar, says he thinks attacks are on the increase because ships are sailing closer to the coastline, lulled by a false sense of security due to the absence of attacks during the past few years.

He explains the pirates' motivation.

"They are not particularly after the cargo," he said. "They're after just kidnapping the crew and then demanding random. Most ships pass the Somali coast because they have to go into the Arabian Gulf or the Red Sea and the warnings are really for those ships."

Captain Abhyankar says ships that are destined for Somali ports appear to be safe from pirate attacks for reasons that are unclear.

The latest attack took place on Monday, when three pirates armed with automatic guns in a speedboat fired upon a bulk carrier sailing near the capital Mogadishu.

The U.S. naval ship USS Gonzalez answered the ship's distress call and escorted the vessel to safety. There were no injuries.