CAIRO, Egypt – Pirates in the Gulf of Aden are holding nine ships with more than 100 passengers for ransom off Somalia, the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Center said Thursday.
A 15,000-ton South Korean cargo ship with 21 sailors was hijacked Wednesday. Other captives include a French couple kidnapped Sept. 3 aboard their yacht, which pirates now are using to capture other ships, authorities said.
Pirates released two other ships, a German-owned cargo vessel and a Japanese chemical tanker, after receiving ransoms, the Reuters news agency reported Thursday.
Wednesday’s hijacking brought the number of pirate attacks this year in the Gulf of Aden to 50, up from 13 for all of last year, said Noel Choong, spokesman for the Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur.
“We have never seen this before, these kinds of numbers, the number of ships that have been attacked,” Choong said.
The attacks are being carried out by increasingly well-coordinated Somali gangs armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, maritime officials said.