NAIROBI, Kenya — U.S. military surveillance drones based in the Seychelles islands are patrolling off Somalia's coast in hopes of stemming a rising piracy trade.
Pirates have unleashed a wave of attacks in recent days as the new pirate season begins. Monsoons kept pirates off the water in recent months.
The bandits seized three ships in the last 10 days, and officials say attacks will rise.
U.S. military officials say unmanned drones called Reapers are patrolling the Indian Ocean. Small drones were previously launched from American warships off Somalia but the larger and more advanced Reapers are the first drones to be operated in the area by the U.S. military's Africa Command.
Vice Adm. Robert Moeller, deputy commander for U.S. Africa Command in Germany, says pirates remain "a pretty significant challenge."
Somalia has been ravaged by violence and anarchy since 1991 and piracy has flourished off its coast.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.