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International police officials say Somali pirates are getting significant help from organized crime.
Officials aired their concerns in Singapore Wednesday at a meeting of Interpol, the global police organization.
Mick Palmer, Australia's Inspector of Transport Security, says there is "clear evidence" of increasing organization in the pirates' activities.
He says pirates are using more sophisticated weapons and can locate big trading ships sailing hundreds, even thousands of kilometers off the Somali coast.
Palmer also says an ordinary pirate involved in a successful hijacking gets only about $10,000 of the ransom, which often runs into the millions.
He says that suggests crime syndicates are taking the bulk of the money. Palmer said that "chasing the money trail" will be a key part of any investigation into the pirates' activities.
Somalia's police chief, Abdi Hassan Aawaleh, told Interpol that he has seen no progress in the fight against piracy, despite increased naval patrols off the coast.
The International Maritime Bureau says Somali pirates have hijacked 34 ships so far this year, compared to 49 in all of 2008.
A report from the bureau late last month said the pirates have carried out nearly 150 attacks this year, the bulk of them in the Gulf of Aden. Since then, several more attacks have been reported.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.