Somali pirates seize three boats following hostage drama

April 14th, 2009 - 6:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Nairobi, April 14 (DPA) Somali pirates have seized three ships - a Greek tanker and two Egyptian fishing boats - just days after US and French forces killed five pirates in two separate operations to free hostages.
The EU Maritime Centre said that MV Irene E.M. was taken overnight, but that the 22-man crew of the 35,000-ton Greek vessel was unhurt.

Greece’s merchant marine ministry said the Saint Vincent-flagged vessel was reportedly sailing from Jordan to India. It belongs to Pireaus-based shipping company Chian Spirit Maritime Enterprises.

Egypt’s foreign ministry said that up to 24 Egyptians had been taken hostage in two separate seizures of fishing boats in the Gulf of Aden Monday.

Pirates activity has picked up in recent weeks after a lull in activity due to bad weather.

Over 20 ships have been attacked in the last three weeks. Eight of those ships are in pirate hands, bringing the total number of ships being held to 16.

Almost 300 crew members are being held hostage.

A high profile attack came last Wednesday, when the crew of the Maersk Alabama fought off pirates who boarded the ship.

Richard Phillips, the captain of the Alabama, was held hostage on a lifeboat for five days until Sunday, when five snipers killed three pirates holding him.

On Friday, the captain of a French yacht and two pirates died when French naval forces stormed the boat, freeing four hostages.

Piracy experts have said they do not expect the attacks to deter pirates from seeking multi-million-dollar ransoms.

In 2008, pirates seized more than 40 vessels in and around the Gulf of Aden and collected tens of millions of dollars in ransoms, prompting the international community to send warships to the region.

Around 15 warships from the European Union, a US-led coalition task force and individual countries such as Russia, India and China patrol an area of about 2.85 million sq km.

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