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Pirates reap billions in Indian Ocean

NAIROBI, November 22 – Somali pirates have been paid more than Sh1.5 billion in ransom over the past 12 months, Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetangula has said.

He said the international community has to move with speed to arrest the situation noting that the trend had fueled a global "criminal enterprise."

"We are advised that in the last 12 months, ransom to the excess of 150 million dollars has been paid to these criminals and that is why they are becoming more and more audacious," Wetangula told reporters.

"The plot has been thickening day by day. What started like a simple lawless activity by a few errant Somali nationals now looks like a major international criminal enterprise that is getting all of us affected," he said.

Wetangula spoke a day after pirates, who hijacked a Saudi oil super-tanker Sirius Star demanded a Sh2.5billion ransom and set a 10-day deadline amid mounting calls for tougher action on sea bandits.

Pirates are well organised where Somalia’s northeastern tip juts into the Indian Ocean, preying on a key maritime route leading to the Suez Canal through which an estimated 30 percent of the world’s oil transits.

They operate high-powered speedboats and are heavily armed, sometimes holding ships for weeks until they are released for large ransoms.

Several foreign warships and aircrafts have been deployed in the region to protect commercial shipping.

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This year there have been 95 attempted ship seizures by pirates in the Gulf of Aden, 39 of them successful, according the International Maritime Bureau.


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