Smarter Somali pirates thwarting navies, NATO admits

Thu, 2011-01-20 18:34 by admin

By MichaeI Richards (AFP)

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MOMBASA, Kenya — Somali pirates' use of "mother ships" to attack their prey is complicating foreign navies' efforts to improve safety in the Indian Ocean, a senior anti-piracy commander said Friday.

Somalia's expanding army of pirates are increasingly launching their attacks from large, already hijacked vessels that offer greater physical protection during boarding and whose kidnapped crews act as human shields.

Speaking to reporters in the Kenyan port of Mombasa where his NATO flagship was docked, Commodore Michiel Hijmans said few pirates were still using their rudimentary skiffs to board vessels.

"Pirates have gone high tech and few use speed boats. They have switched to usage of mother ships," said Hijmans, who currently commands NATO's Ocean Shield anti-piracy mission.

"We cannot attack mother ships without proper planning since most of them have hostages on board," said the Dutch navy commander.

Hijmans also explained that pirates operating on large hijacked vessels were able to extend their area of operation when on the prowl and were no longer confined to their coastal hideouts during monsoon seasons.

"The pirates can operate in the sea for long as they load the mother ships with enough food, fuel and militant weapons ready for a hijacking spree," he said.

"Pirates are getting smarter every hour... Pirates do not give up unless they cannot board or are threatened. I'm afraid that the war on piracy might not be won until there is a stable government in Somalia," he said.

Hijmans said Somali pirates were currently holding 28 ships and 654 crew members.

Ecoterra International, an environmental and human rights NGO monitoring maritime activity in the region, says at least 45 foreign vessels are hijacked and 800 seamen held hostage. …

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