A maritime watchdog today warned seafarers that Somali pirates were targeting ships at the southern end of the Red Sea and off Oman following bad weather and the absence of naval warships. "The two new areas are at Bab al Mandab, southern Red Sea, and the Arabian Sea, off Oman," Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur, said. Mr Choong said the IMB had recorded eight attacks in the past two weeks in the two areas, adding that pirates were staging raids under the cover of darkness.
"Pirates are expanding their attacks from the Gulf of Aden. Bad weather conditions in the east coast of Somalia due to the south-west monsoon are pushing them to launch attacks in the two new areas," he said. Mr Choong also said the international flotilla of warships was concentrated in the Gulf of Aden, forcing pirates to expand their attack areas to ensure successful hijackings. The world's naval powers have deployed dozens of warships to the lawless waters off Somalia over the past year to curb attacks by pirates threatening one of the world's busiest maritime trade routes.
At the last count 14 ships were still being held by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, together with more than 200 seamen, almost a quarter of them Filipinos. * AFP