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Piracy: attacks drop off Somalia but spike off West Africa


A Somali coastguard patrols off the coast of Somalia's breakaway Republic of Somaliland.



Piracy is in decline, with attacks dropping dramatically so far this year, the International Maritime Bureau has said.

Globally, pirate attacks dropped 28 percent in the first quarter of 2012 — 102 attacks were recorded, down from 142 a year earlier — Bloomberg cited the London-based bureau  as saying Monday.

Incidents off the coast of Somalia dropped to 43 from 97, thanks largely to international naval interventions, and the number of vessels that were hijacked also fell from 16 to nine, with 144 crew members being taken hostage.

"The [European Union] announcement to expand their anti-piracy mission to target pirates ashore is another welcome move that could further threaten the Somali piracy model," Pottengal Mukundan, director of the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre, said in a statement cited by CNN.

However, incidents off the coast of Nigeria doubled, with pirates venturing further out to sea, the bureau reported.

Nigeria-based pirates were behind 11 attacks in the first quarter, the bureau said. Only 10 pirate attacks were reported off Nigeria all of last year, it said.

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"Nigerian piracy is increasing in incidence and extending in range," Mukundan said. "At least six of the 11 reported incidents in Nigeria occurred at distances greater than 70 nautical miles from the coast, which suggests that fishing vessels are being used as mother ships to attack shipping further afield."

Further: “While the number of reported incidents in Nigeria is still less than Somalia, and hijacked vessels are under control of the pirates for days rather than months, the level of violence against crew is dangerously high,” Mukundan said.

The International Maritime Bureau has been monitoring piracy worldwide since 1991, according to Reuters.

Other than the rise in West African attacks — mostly targeting ships that service the growing trade of oil, cocoa and metals — it said there had been a noticeable increase in the number of armed robbery attacks in the Indonesian archipelago, rising to 18 incidents in the first quarter, from five in the same period last year.

"All types of vessels have been targeted and five crew members taken hostage. These attacks are aimed at theft from vessels," the bureau said.

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