Image: United Nations African Union troops
Farah Abdi Warsameh  /  AP
U.N. African Union troops patrol the Somali coast Saturday due to growing piracy for the past few months.
updated 7/12/2007 9:25:56 AM ET 2007-07-12T13:25:56

Pirate attacks have increased sharply, especially in Somalia and Nigeria, an international maritime watchdog agency said Thursday.

There were 85 attacks on ships in the April-June quarter, up from 66 in the same period a year earlier and from 41 in the previous quarter, the London-based International Maritime Bureau said through its piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.

“Despite a sustained decrease in acts of piracy over the past three years, the statistics for the second quarter of this year suggest that we may be seeing a reversal of this trend,” IMB director Pottengal Mukundan warned in a statement.

“Somalia and Nigeria remain very dangerous, high-risk areas with large numbers of violent kidnappings and hostage takings.”

Indonesia remained the world’s worst reported piracy hotspot, with 24 attacks in the first half of 2007, but this was an improvement from 33 in the same period a year earlier, the IMB said.

It said attacks have risen steeply in Nigeria with 19 incidents in January-June, up from only 7 a year earlier, it said.

Pirates were usually heavily armed and have begun attacking oil tankers during crucial cargo operations, which raised the risk of loss of lives and environmental destruction, the report said.

Southeast Asia improves
Somalia has re-emerged as a trouble area with 17 attacks in the first half of this year, eight vessels hijacked and 85 crew members taken hostage, the IMB said. This marked a dramatic increase over 10 attacks recorded for all of 2006, it said.

The IMB urged Somalia’s government to let foreign naval ships assist hijacked vessels in Somali waters. “It is only when the pirates see that they can no longer make easy money by seizing vessels, that we will see a reduction in attacks.”

While parts of Africa remain problematic, the IMB said the situation in Southeast Asia’s previously worrisome Strait of Malacca has significantly improved.

Only two incidents were reported in the narrow waterway so far this year, with no attacks at all in the second quarter, thanks to increased cooperation between states straddling the strait, it said.

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