updated 7/11/2008 5:38:20 AM ET 2008-07-11T09:38:20

Pirate attacks worldwide surged 19 percent in the past three months compared to the January-March period, largely due to increased incidents in Somalia and Nigeria, an international maritime agency said Friday.

There were 62 attacks on ships between April and June, up from 52 in the previous quarter, the International Maritime Bureau said in a report released by its piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

"The frequency and level of violence directed at seafarers is cause for alarm. The abduction of crew and the increasing use of automatic weapons remain unacceptable," it said.

The second quarter figure was lower than 85 attacks reported in the same period last year, but the agency said many attacks may have gone unreported because seafarers feared for their safety.

For the first half of 2008, pirate attacks worldwide fell to 114, from 126 a year earlier, it said.

Hotspot for piracy
Africa remains the world's top piracy hotspot, with 24 reported attacks in Somalia and 18 in Nigeria so far this year, it said. Indonesia ranked third on the global list with 13 reports, mostly of low-level theft.

Pirates boarded 71 vessels worldwide this year and hijacked 12. In all, 190 crew members were taken hostage, seven killed and another seven are missing and presumed dead, it said.

The violence was pronounced in Somalia, where pirates are often armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic weapons.

Attacks continued to be suppressed in the Straits of Malacca, thanks to anti-piracy cooperation between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore which shared the key shipping route, it said. Just two attacks have been reported this year in the waterway, the same as in 2007, it said.

Other countries recording attacks this year included Tanzania, Bangladesh and India with seven each and Malaysia with six.

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