updated 5/29/2008 1:13:21 PM ET 2008-05-29T17:13:21

Somali pirates have hijacked two more boats in the Gulf of Aden, bringing to 26 the total number of ships seized off Somalia this year, a Kenyan maritime official said Thursday.

Andrew Mwangura, head of the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program, said the two ships were taken on Wednesday near where a Dutch ship was seized on Monday. He did not have any information about the owners or the nationalities of the crew onboard the MV Lehmann Timber or the MV Arean or any information on the pirates' demands.

Cyrus Mody of the International Maritime Bureau confirmed the attack on the MV Lehman Timber but said the bureau was still waiting for final confirmation on the MV Arean. Mody, a piracy analyst with the bureau, a specialized maritime crime division of the International Chamber of Commerce, could not provide any further details.

Piracy is rampant along the 1,880-mile Somali coast, the longest in Africa and located near key shipping routes connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean. A Spanish trawler, a French yacht and several ships carrying humanitarian aid have been seized this year.

Somali officials have publicly blamed Western companies, accusing them of paying ransoms that can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars and, in so doing, encouraging more hijackings. Some pirates have been arrested in connection with the attacks, but that has failed to halt the hijackings.

Last month the United States and France introduced a U.N. resolution that would allow countries to chase and arrest pirates off Somalia's coast. Somalia has no navy and is unable to police its own shores.

The impoverished Horn of Africa nation is awash with weapons and riven between quarreling warlords, a weak transitional government supported by Ethiopian troops, and Islamic insurgents.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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