, KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 – Somali pirates kidnapped a record number of seafarers in 2010, in cases that left eight sailors dead, a maritime watchdog said Tuesday.
Pirates in the lawless region hijacked 53 ships and captured 1,181 seafarers last year, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a report.
"More people were taken hostage at sea in 2010 than in any year on record," it said.
The number of pirate attacks against ships has risen every year for the past four years, the IMB said.
There were 445 attacks reported in 2010, up 10 percent from 2009. Some 188 crew members were taken hostage in 2006, 1,050 in 2009 and 1,181 in 2010.
"These figures for the number of hostages and vessels taken are the highest we have ever seen," said Pottengal Mukundan, director of the IMB\’s Piracy Reporting Centre, which has monitored the problem worldwide since 1991.
"The continued increase in these numbers is alarming," he added.
Hijackings off the coast of Somalia accounted for 92 percent of all ship seizures last year, with 49 vessels captured and 1,016 crew members taken hostage, the IMB report said.
Somali pirates were still holding 28 vessels and 638 hostages for ransom as of last December, it said.
Mukundan said that on the seas off Somalia, heavily armed pirates are overpowering ocean-going fishing or merchant vessels to use as bases for further attacks.
"They capture the crew and force them to sail to within attacking distance of other unsuspecting vessels," he said.