Somali pirates out of control

Separate bands of pirates have hijacked two ships and captured their crews, while another opened fire on an Indian navy ship before being driven off .

Separate bands of pirates have hijacked two ships and captured their crews, while another opened fire on an Indian navy ship before being driven off .

Authorities said yesterday that a Thai ship with 16 crew members and an Iranian cargo vessel with a crew of 25 were hijacked on Tuesday in the Gulf of Aden, where Somalia-based pirates appear to be attacking ships at will, said Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Malaysia.

"It's getting out of control," Choong said.

The incidents raised to eight the number of ships hijacked this week alone, he said.

Since the beginning of the year 39 ships out of 95 that were attacked have been hijacked in the Gulf of Aden.

"There is no firm deterrent, that's why the pirate attacks are continuing," Choong said.

"The criminal activities are flourishing because the risks are low and the rewards are extremely high."

The pirates used to mainly roam the waters off the Somali coast but now they have spread in every direction and are targeting ships further at sea, according to Choong.

He said 17 vessels remained in the hands of pirates with more than 300 crew members, including a Ukrainian ship loaded with weapons and a Saudi Arabian supertanker carrying crude worth $100 million.

A naval force scored a success on Tuesday when an Indian warship destroyed a suspected pirate ship that had opened fire off the coast of Oman.

The Indian navy said the pirates fired on the INS Tabar after the officers asked it to stop to be searched. Indian forces fired back, destroying the ship, and then chased one of the speed boats, which was later found abandoned. The others escaped, according to a navy statement.

Despite stepped-up patrols the attacks have continued unabated off Somalia, which is caught up in an Islamic insurgency and has had no functioning government since 1991.

Pirates have generally released ships they have seized after ransoms are paid.

X