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Somalia, Iraq Emerge as New Hotspots for Piracy Attacks

Sailors stand near rocket launcher pods during a show the launching of Indonesian Navy's anti-sea piracy operation
The number of piracy attacks worldwide hit a six-year low in the first half of 2005. Indonesian waters, however, keep first place as the most dangerous, while Somalia and Iraq are emerging as the new piracy hotspots.

Pirate attacks on ships worldwide fell by 30 percent in the first half of this year dropping from 182 in the first half of 2004 to 127. There have also been no piracy-related killings compared to 30 fatalities by this time last year.

That is the good news from the International Maritime Bureau, a non-profit shipping watchdog, which issued a new report Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur.

The bureau's deputy director, speaking from offices in London, Captain Jayant Abhyankar, attributes the decline to the December 26 tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean and to a new United Nations port security convention enacted last year.

"Tsunami had a dramatic impact of the decline in attacks, certainly in the first two months or first three months of this year…. The second reason is that there is a new regulatory security code for ships in ports which came into focus on the first of July, 2004… That would have had some impact I'm sure because the ports are now tightening up their own in-house security measures," he said.

Attacks also declined 16 percent off Indonesia, which has the world's most dangerous waterways in terms of piracy. It still accounted for a third of all pirate attacks worldwide.

Other countries which reported fewer pirate attacks include Malaysia, Thailand, the

Philippines, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Brazil,

Venezuela, Ghana, Columbia, and Ecuador.

India, Bangladesh, and Somalia came in second with eight attacks each.

The International Maritime Bureau's Jayant Abhyankar noted Somalia and Iraq are growing areas of concern.

"About Somalia, we're more concerned than the Iraq situation because Iraq you at least have the coalition forces, there is some degree of law enforcement," said Jayant Abhyankar. "As against Somalia there is no law whatsoever, there's no government, and there's no security forces to protect ships."

Piracy was almost unknown off Iraq. This year there have been four incidents.