10 Crazy Pirate Attacks in Modern Day

Crazy Modern Day Pirate Attacks

1. Somali Pirates Tell Their Side: They Want Only Money

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NAIROBI, Kenya — The Somali pirates who hijacked a Ukrainian freighter loaded with tanks, artillery, grenade launchers and ammunition said in an interview on Tuesday that they had no idea the ship was carrying arms when they seized it on the high seas.

“We just saw a big ship,” the pirates’ spokesman, Sugule Ali, said in a telephone interview. “So we stopped it.”

The pirates quickly learned, though, that their booty was an estimated $30 million worth of heavy weaponry, heading for Kenya or Sudan, depending on whom you ask.

In a 45-minute interview, Mr. Sugule spoke on everything from what the pirates wanted (“just money”) to why they were doing this (“to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters”) to what they had to eat on board (rice, meat, bread, spaghetti, “you know, normal human-being food”).

He said that so far, in the eyes of the world, the pirates had been misunderstood. “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits,” he said. “We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas. We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.”

The pirates who answered the phone call on Tuesday morning said they were speaking by satellite phone from the bridge of the Faina, the Ukrainian cargo ship that was hijacked about 200 miles off the coast of Somalia on Thursday. Several pirates talked but said that only Mr. Sugule was authorized to be quoted. Mr. Sugule acknowledged that they were now surrounded by American warships, but he did not sound afraid. “You only die once,” Mr. Sugule said.

He said that all was peaceful on the ship, despite unconfirmed reports from maritime organizations in Kenya that three pirates were killed in a shootout among themselves on Sunday or Monday night.

He insisted that the pirates were not interested in the weapons and had no plans to sell them to Islamist insurgents battling Somalia’s weak transitional government. “Somalia has suffered from many years of destruction because of all these weapons,” he said. “We don’t want that suffering and chaos to continue. We are not going to offload the weapons. We just want the money.”

He said the pirates were asking for $20 million in cash; “we don’t use any other system than cash.” But he added that they were willing to bargain. “That’s deal-making,” he explained.

Piracy in Somalia is a highly organized, lucrative, ransom-driven business. Just this year, pirates hijacked more than 25 ships, and in many cases, they were paid million-dollar ransoms to release them. The juicy payoffs have attracted gunmen from across Somalia, and the pirates are thought to number in the thousands.

The piracy industry started about 10 to 15 years ago, Somali officials said, as a response to illegal fishing. Somalia’s central government imploded in 1991, casting the country into chaos. With no patrols along the shoreline, Somalia’s tuna-rich waters were soon plundered by commercial fishing fleets from around the world. Somali fishermen armed themselves and turned into vigilantes by confronting illegal fishing boats and demanding that they pay a tax.

“From there, they got greedy,” said Mohamed Osman Aden, a Somali diplomat in Kenya. “They starting attacking everyone.”

By the early 2000s, many of the fishermen had traded in their nets for machine guns and were hijacking any vessel they could catch: sailboat, oil tanker, United Nations-chartered food ship.

“It’s true that the pirates started to defend the fishing business,” Mr. Mohamed said. “And illegal fishing is a real problem for us. But this does not justify these boys to now act like guardians. They are criminals. The world must help us crack down on them.”

The United States and several European countries, in particular France, have been talking about ways to patrol the waters together. The United Nations is even considering something like a maritime peacekeeping force. Because of all the hijackings, the waters off Somalia’s coast are considered the most dangerous shipping lanes in the world.

On Tuesday, several American warships — around five, according to one Western diplomat — had the hijacked freighter cornered along the craggy Somali coastline. The American ships allowed the pirates to bring food and water on board, but not to take weapons off. A Russian frigate is also on its way to the area.

Lt. Nathan Christensen, a Navy spokesman, said on Tuesday that he had heard the unconfirmed reports about the pirate-on-pirate shootout, but that the Navy had no more information. “To be honest, we’re not seeing a whole lot of activity” on the ship, he said.

In Washington, Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, declined to discuss any possible American military operations to capture the ship.

“Our concern is right now making sure that there’s a peaceful resolution to this, that this cargo does not end up in the hands of anyone who would use it in a way that would be destabilizing to the region,” Mr. Morrell told reporters at the Pentagon. He said the United States government was not involved in any negotiations with the pirates. He also said he had no information about reports that the pirates had exchanged gunfire among themselves.

Kenyan officials continued to maintain that the weapons aboard were part of a legitimate arms deal for the Kenyan military, even though several Western diplomats, Somali officials and the pirates themselves said the arms were part of a secret deal to funnel weapons to southern Sudan.

Somali officials are urging the Western navies to storm the ship and arrest the pirates because they say that paying ransoms only fuels the problem. Western diplomats, however, have said that such a commando operation would be very difficult because the ship is full of explosives and the pirates could use the 20 crew members as human shields.

Mr. Sugule said his men were treating the crew members well. (The pirates would not let the crew members speak on the phone, saying it was against their rules.) “Killing is not in our plans,” he said. “We only want money so we can protect ourselves from hunger.”

When asked why the pirates needed $20 million to protect themselves from hunger, Mr. Sugule laughed and said, “Because we have a lot of men.”

2. Peter Blake, the world's leading sailor, shot dead in attack by Amazon pirates

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Sir Peter Blake, the world's most famous sailor, who went further and faster then anyone before, was yesterday shot and killed by a group of armed pirates known as "the water rats" in a night-time robbery on his boat in the Brazilian Amazon.
Blake, aged 53, had returned from dinner with his crew in Macapa, a remote city on the northern bank of the Amazon delta, when a gang of up to eight men arrived at his boat by rubber dinghy.

When the gang, wearing motorcycle helmets, made their demands, Blake reached for his gun and shot one of them, according to Brazilian police. In retaliation the robbers opened fire. Blake died from gunshot wounds. Two other members of the crew were injured.

It was a tragic end for the man who dominated the world of sailing for more than a decade, twice securing the America's Cup - the sport's most prestigious trophy - for his native New Zealand. Blake was also the only man to complete five Whitbread Round the World races, finally winning in 1990 when, uniquely, he finished first in all six legs.

"He was a New Zealand hero and everyone will feel a great sense of sadness at his death," Paul East, New Zealand's high commissioner in London, said.

Last night, as tributes continued to pour in from around the world for the man whose other great love was the environment, the New Zealand ambassador in Brazil arrived in Macapa. Brazilian police said the robbers took a watch and the boat's motor. No one has been arrested.

Blake, who was appointed in July as a goodwill ambassador of the United Nation's environment programme, was on a research expedition - sponsored by Omega - that was progressing up the River Amazon. He arrived in Rio de Janeiro on September 12 and headed north up the Brazilian coast. He reached Belem, where the Amazon meets the Atlantic Ocean, on October 2. The crew was planning to sail upstream and reach Venzeuela at the beginning of February.

Blake was travelling with 14 crew, including his daughter Sarah Jane. Nine people were on board the Seamaster yacht when the attack happened, just after 10pm on Wednesday.

The riverside near Macapa is well known for its violence, said a man in the city who did not want to be named. "Blake was badly advised to anchor there," he said. "The police definitely know who did it, but they will only catch them if there is enough international pressure."

Blake arrived in Macapa away from the eyes of the local media. "There is no way the pirates knew who he was. For them he was just another tourist with a large boat."

While on his Amazonian journey Blake kept a log on his website. The last entry was written on Wednesday, the day he died. "Status: still motoring. Conditions: pleasant," he wrote. "Dusk has turned the surface of the river into a greasy grey, with the sky quickly darkening after the sun's orange and golds have gone.

"Again, I raise the question: why are we here? Our aim is to begin to understand the reasons why we must all start appreciating what we have before it is too late. We want to restart people caring for the environment as it must be cared for. We want to make a difference."

Blake, who had started to sail aged five, had achieved what he set out to do in the sport- everything. His domination was a hallmark of his application, persistence and overriding passion for the job in hand. The yacht in which he finally won the Whitbread, Steinlager 2, was built to the limits of the rule for that race. It incorporated his and designer Bruce Farr's thinking and gave him a psychological as well as physical advantage over his rivals.

In those days (1989/90), the race was scored on cumulative time and at the end of the first leg, from Southampton to Punta del Este in Uruguay, Blake had such a commanding lead that he need only sail the rest of the race conservatively to be sure of overall victory.

Buoyed by that success, Blake was sought by Sir Michael Fay to instil a spirit of teamwork into his America's Cup campaign for New Zealand in 1992.

He was devastated by the failure of this campaign, and when Fay stood down Blake picked up the gauntlet, mortgaging his house to pay the $75,000 deposit for a challenge in 1995. At the time he had no support, but he had always had strong backers in his home country and financial leaders provided most of the money needed.

He had, by then, captured the Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest sailing circumnavigation with co-skipper Robin Knox-Johnston aboard the 92-foot catamaran Enza. His "lucky red socks" - knitted for him by his wife Pippa - became an icon. 500,000 pairs were sold in New Zealand, with half a million dollars helping the challenge fund.

Black Magic, with Blake as skipper, lost only two races in the challenger trials and went on to win the cup in straight races. He received a knighthood, and managed the successful defence of the Cup in 2000, again winning in five straight races.

He had earlier become head of the Jacques Cousteau Foundation. Blake took the foundation's specially designed boat and set off on scientific exploration in Antarctic waters twice before opting for further scientific research up the Amazon.

3. Sea Shepherd conservation group declared 'pirates' in US court ruling

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A US court has declared the conservation group Sea Shepherd to be "pirates" and ordered it to stop its aggressive actions against Japanese whalers.

The ruling was issued on Wednesday by chief judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th US circuit court of appeals.

In his 18-page opinion, he wrote: "You don't need a peg leg or an eye patch. When you ram ships; hurl containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate, no matter how high-minded you believe your purpose to be."

The lawsuit was brought by a group of Japanese researchers who hunt whales in the Southern Ocean, collectively referred to in the judgment as "Cetacean". Their legal action to halt Sea Shepherd comes after years of clashes at sea.

The appeals court also sharply criticized judge Richard Jones who presided over the original case. His decision raises "doubts as to whether he will be perceived as impartial in presiding over this high-profile case", Kozinski wrote.

As a result of Wednesday's ruling, which grants Cetacean an injunction against Sea Shepherd, the American branch of the conservation group has severed ties with its Australian counterpart. Cetacean currently faces legal action from Australia, which has banned all whaling in its waters, a fact which Judge Kozinski noted, but reasoned: "It is for Australia, not Sea Shepherd, to police Australia's court orders."

Scott West, a spokesman for Sea Shepherd, told the Guardian that Kozinski's opinion is "only an opinion", and that the label of "pirate" is "ludicrous" given that "there is no personal gain, and there's no violence". The case will be transferred to a district court, though Sea Shepherd may choose to appeal against the injunction.

Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan's fisheries minister, has reaffirmed the country's stance on whaling to the AFP, stating: "So why don't we at least agree to disagree? We have this culture, and you don't have that culture."

Although an international treaty has banned commercial whaling for 25 years, certain countries have permits to legally hunt whales for scientific research, including Japan and Norway. Sea Shepherd contends that "no reputable scientist will say this is scientific research", but international laws on open waters remain divisive and murky in practice.

This case comes in the shadow of a larger debate on whaling, dolphins and commercial fishing, as the WTO ruled that the US must end its "dolphin-safe" label program or grant exemptions by 2014, a decision that has sparked a row between conservation groups.

Dolphins, which are whales and also subject to similar hunts, have been protected by US policies since the 1999 Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program. The program stipulates that fishermen cannot chase dolphins in order to round up the tuna swimming beneath them; in the process of netting fish, the boats raise dolphins, as well, which consequently suffocate. Mexico, which did not join the program, filed the suit with the WTO.

Organizations like Earth Island Institute, which monitors tuna companies to ensure safe practices, bemoaned the decision, citing several central American countries that will increase dolphin-chasing in newly unregulated environments.

Other groups, however, like the Campaign for Eco-Safe Tuna support the WTO ruling as a victory for a more sustainable fishing. They contend that the label program permits a lack of oversight, as well as a restrictive definition of safe practices, which inflicts greater harm on dolphins and other marine life via accidental catches, or "bycatch". The Campaign for Eco-Safe Tuna supports adopting a new label, which would remove the false pressure on fisherman to use the previous label over more sustainable methods of fishing.

4. Yachts encountering real pirates of the Caribbean

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When two men wielding cutlasses and a third brandishing a gun burst onto their yacht at 1:30 in the morning, Allison Botros and the seven others aboard suddenly realized that "Pirates of the Caribbean" is not just a movie.

"Give us your money or we will kill you," Botros recalled the robbers telling them during the 15-minute ordeal. The mother of three from Cleveland was cruising with Swedish and American friends aboard the 70-foot Sway, which was boarded as it was anchored in this pristine harbor that is shadowed by the La Soufriere volcano and rimmed by swaying palms.

After shaking down the passengers for thousands of dollars in cash, watches, cameras and cellphones, the robbers ordered skipper Harald Krecker to motor out to sea or be hit with rocket-propelled grenades.

More than five months after the Dec. 22 incident, the robbery victims have yet to receive a police report, the pirates remain at large, and the sleek yachts that ply the teal waters of the Windward Islands have gone elsewhere, making a ghost town of scenic Chateaubelair.

Attacks on yachters across the Caribbean have marred the luxurious cruising life with increasing frequency as the number of vessels sailing the lush islands grows year to year, and with it the lure of valuables for thieves and drug traffickers in the region.

At least three other attacks were reported in Chateaubelair in a two-week period in December, all involving three men, two long knives and a handgun.

"What is new in the last two to three years is an increase in the use of weapons," said Melodye Pompa, administrator of the Caribbean Safety and Security Net website, a sailing community endeavor that logs thefts, robberies and assaults committed against boaters. "It's becoming more violent. I've tracked that across the region we cover."

Most of the hundreds of incidents collected from 30 countries and territories over the last four years involve dinghy and outboard motor thefts or burglaries of boats while passengers were ashore. But guns and knives are being used more frequently, and dozens of incidents involving beatings and stabbings are among the crimes reported to the website, which compiles its statistics from charter operators, marinas, harbor masters and the victims.

No one on board the Sway was hurt, but the captain of another yacht, the Chiquita, which was attacked here the next night, suffered multiple cuts, including two head wounds that required stitches at a hospital in Kingstown, the island nation's capital.

"There are times when it's happening and you think it's not real," Botros said. "At one point one of them said, 'If you don't find your wallet, I'll kill you,' and I was so traumatized I forgot that I hadn't brought my wallet on the trip. I was saying, 'Oh my God, I can't find it! I've got to find it!' thinking about our kids at home."

Yachting visitors and the local suppliers who cater to them are the mainstays of many Caribbean island economies, including St. Vincent's. A week's charter of a luxury sailing vessel such as the Sway costs more than $13,000 plus expenses, and mega-yachts, with their onboard swimming pools and helicopters, are increasingly dropping anchor and treasure at the beautiful harbors of the region.

The December crime wave prompted some added vigilance by the coast guard and police, but specifics of the response were unclear. Representatives of the St. Vincent police did not return calls or answer e-mails after receiving a request for an interview on what they were doing to combat crime against yachters.

The attacks also galvanized the island's sailing businesses. Fearing for their livelihoods, yacht charterers and provisioners anted up funds for a patrol boat and published a list of do's and don'ts for prospective cruisers. Some said that only put the dangers in black and white.

"If I got this, I would get on the next plane out of here and go home," Mary Barnard, managing director of Barefoot Yacht Charters, said of the brochure, which essentially advises sailors to stay locked up, on board and under guard at all times.

She produced a letter from a Canadian couple who had been customers for years, in which they said that their June 2006 assault and robbery by men armed with machetes had compelled them "to stop all cruising in your area."

At the Beach Front Restaurant & Bar on Chateaubelair harbor, waiter Felix Granderson said he thought it might be safer these days because of stepped-up security but that it was difficult to tell because sailors no longer anchored here. He said the pirates were holed up in the towering mountains above the harbor.

"Everybody knows who's doing it. It's guys who don't want to work, from Fitz-Hughes," he said, referring to a remote village on the flanks of La Soufriere.

Even if arrests are made in such crimes, the victims are seldom able to return to identify or testify against their attackers, said Chris Doyle, author of popular cruising guides for the Caribbean.

"The islands have a judicial system that dates back a bit and is very much in favor of the criminal when the victim does not stay around," he said, explaining why the yacht pillagers are seldom prosecuted.

Police in the islands tend to be in "react mode," Pompa said of the short-lived flurries of concern and investigation that follow incidents. But some islands have taken lessons from the bad publicity that cuts into the tourism industry, on which most of them are dependent.

"Dominica, up until about eight years ago, had a terrible reputation, and it was deserved," she said of the island about 135 miles north of here where pirates preyed on visiting vessels. When sailors stopped anchoring there, the prime minister got the business community together to bankroll a patrol boat that has drastically reduced onboard crimes, she said.

Pirates who attacked a yacht in Rodney Bay in St. Lucia -- about 60 miles north of here -- two years ago severely beat the captain and raped his wife, causing the number of visits to drop by half, Pompa said she was told by local officials. The government deployed a port patrol boat, which "seems to be somewhat of a deterrent," Pompa said.

Crimes against boaters are down throughout St. Lucia this year, she said, and no recent incident has involved violence, according to web logs at safetyandsecuritynet.com.

Others with long experience sailing the Caribbean contend that it isn't so much that crime has increased, but rather the volume of cruising traffic and the means of communicating the incidents.

"There's definitely a concern, but it's really hard to say if there is more crime against yachts than there ever was or if dissemination of the information is just better now," said Sally Erdle, editor of the Caribbean Compass, a monthly newspaper published in Bequia, another island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines that is popular with the sailing crowd. "With the Internet, the yachts all e-mail reports of these incidents far and wide immediately, and also discuss them on yacht and ham radio nets."

The seaboard jungle drums can also generate multiple reports of a single incident, she noted, "turning it into a dozen in the minds of the public."

"Bad things come in waves," said author Doyle, whose cruisingguides.com includes advisories about crime waves in places of real concern such as Venezuelan islands and Chateaubelair.

"If we have a trouble spot with those responsible still loose, we need to try to warn people," he said. "The problem then becomes, how much does the warning generalize? For example, we have had a problem in Chateaubelair, but not Cumberland or Wallilabou, a few miles to the south. How do we stop people becoming so paranoid they avoid the whole west coast?"

Disturbing as the robberies and other occasional violent incidents are, they remain exceptions, he said, recalling six incidents during the last season out of 1,000 moorings by charters in St. Lucia's Soufriere Marine Management Area.

"The police in the islands do make an effort, especially in response to really bad and well-publicized events, such as rape," he said. But most of the crimes cast as piracy against yachters "are no more than the occasional stolen dinghy and break-in."

5. Fisherman found dead after pirate attack

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The police say that investigations are being conducted into a report that about 2300h. last night boat captain Seepersaud Persaud, 43 years, of No.78 Village, Corentyne, and four crew members were aboard a boat in the Lower Shell area, Nickerie, when another boat with five men armed with cutlasses came up alongside.

The armed men boarded Persaud’s boat where they took away two 48hp outboard motor engines, tied up the four crew members and threw Persaud overboard. He was subsequently rescued by the crew of another fishing vessel in the area after drifting for some time, the police said.

Later, when the men were pulling up their seine they found the body of Hemchand Sukhdeo, 44 years, of No.55 Village, Corentyne, caught in the seine. Sukhdeo was one of the four crew members of Seepersaud Persaud’s boat.

The area was searched but neither the vessel nor the other three crew members have been located.

While at sea, police said that Persaud managed to contact persons at the No.66 Fishing Complex and informed them of the incident and gave a description of the boat that was used by the perpetrators.

During this morning, acting on information received, the police went to the No.65 Village Foreshore, Corentyne, where they saw a boat matching the description given. Five men who were aboard have been arrested and are in police custody assisting with the investigations, police said.

The Suriname Police authorities have been informed of the incident.

6. Cruise ship repels Somali pirates

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A cruise ship sailing off Somalia has beaten back gunmen in speedboats who opened fire on it in an apparent pirate attack which terrified passengers.
At least two boats closed in on the Seabourn Spirit, firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at the cruise liner.

But crew took evasive action, repelling the attackers without returning fire.

One crew member was lightly injured in the early-morning incident in waters notorious for pirate attacks.
'Rocket hit ship'

The Bahamian-registered ship was carrying 302 passengers and crew, most of them are believed to be Americans as well as some Britons.

"My daughter saw the pirates out our window," passenger Edith Laird from Seattle in the US told the BBC News website in an e-mail from the ship.

"There were at least three RPG that hit the ship, one in a stateroom four doors down from our cabin," she said.

Fellow passenger Norman Fisher, 55, from Hampstead Garden Suburb in London, said he had seen some of the attackers.

"One of them clearly had a rifle. Later I realised that two of them had rifles and one had some kind of rocket launcher.

"They were firing the rifle and then fired the rocket launcher twice. One of the rockets certainly hit the ship - it went through the side of the liner into a passenger's suite. The couple were in there at the time so it was a bit of an unpleasant experience."

The crew used an on-board loud acoustic bang to deter the gunmen, making them believe they were under fire.

A scheduled stop in Mombasa, in neighbouring Kenya, has been cancelled and the cruise, which began in the Egyptian port of Alexandria is now due to end in the Seychelles on Monday.

Attacks common

David Dingle, a spokesman for the Miami-based company Seabourn Cruises, said passengers were "somewhat surprised and shocked" when they woke to find the ship under attack at 0530 (0230 GMT) on Saturday.

"The passengers were mustered in a public room, told what was going on and reassured that we were fighting off the attack," he said.

"They were shocked but no passengers were injured whatsoever.

"We are extremely pleased that all the measures worked."

He added that the company had no reason to believe it was a terrorist attack and all the evidence pointed to pirates.

It appears to be the first attack on a luxury cruise liner in the area.

The Seafarers' Assistance Programme (SAP) is due to discuss the incident and its implications for tourism in the region on Monday, Kenyan SAP official Andrew Mwangura told AFP news agency.

At least 23 hijackings and attempted seizures have been recorded off the Somali coast since mid-March, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which has warned ships to stay as far away from the coast as possible.

Two ships carrying aid for the UN World Food Program were among the vessels attacked this year.

"The southern coastline is among the most dangerous in the world," said Mr Mwangura.

Somalia has been without a functioning central authority since 1991 when warlords took power after Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted.

7. Indian, Chinese navies rescue ship hijacked by Somali pirates

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The navies of India and China carried out a joint operation on Sunday to rescue a merchant ship hijacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, the Indian defence ministry said.

After receiving a distress call on Saturday night, the Indian warships established contact with the captain of the merchant vessel who had locked himself in a strong room along with the rest of the Filipino crew.

“An Indian Navy helicopter undertook aerial reconnaissance of the merchant vessel... to sanitise the upper decks of the merchant ship and ascertain the location of pirates, if still on board,” a statement from the defence ministry said.

Emboldened by the helicopter cover and on receiving the all-clear signal that no pirates were visible on the upper decks, some crew members gradually emerged from the strong room.

They searched the ship and confirmed that the pirates had fled overnight.

A boarding party from the nearby Chinese Navy ship then arrived on the merchant ship, while the Indian Naval helicopter provided air cover for the rescue operation.

“It has been established that all 19 Filipino crew members are safe,” the statement added.

The bulk carrier, OS 35, was travelling from Kelang in Malaysia to the port city of Aden in Yemen when it came under attack from Somali pirates on Saturday night.

Joint action
The Indian warships were in the region as part of an overseas deployment.

The joint action comes amid a recent strain in ties following the Dalai Lama’s visit to the Indian border state of Arunachal Pradesh, parts of which China claims as its territory.

Somali pirates began staging attacks on ships in 2005, disrupting major international shipping routes and costing the global economy billions of dollars.

At the peak of the piracy crisis in January 2011, 736 hostages and 32 boats were held.

8. Two Americans have been kidnapped by pirates off the Nigerian coast after their oil supply vessel was attacked

Pirates attacked an oil supply vessel off the Nigerian coast and kidnapped the captain and chief engineer, both U.S. citizens, an American defense official and security sources said on Thursday.

Pirate attacks off Nigeria's coast have jumped by a third this year as ships passing through West Africa's Gulf of Guinea, a major commodities route, have come under threat from gangs wanting to snatch cargoes and crews.

The U.S.-flagged, C-Retriever, a 222-foot (67 meter) vessel owned by U.S. marine transport group Edison Chouest Offshore, was attacked early Wednesday, UK-based security firm AKE and two security sources said. The company was not immediately available for comment.

A U.S. defense official said the State Department and FBI were leading the American response to the incident. A second defense official said the U.S. Marine Corps has a small training unit in the region but it was not clear if it would get involved.

U.S. Navy officials have grown increasingly concerned about piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea and are working with local authorities there to strengthen their ability to patrol the region and better share information.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called the region a potential 'hot spot' after a visit to four countries surrounding the gulf in August.

He told Defense News in September the Navy was working closely with Gabon, Senegal, Sao Tome and Ghana to help fight an increase in illegal trafficking of drugs, people and arms.

'The piracy threat is spreading even further through the waters of West Africa, and the attacks have been mounting, even as global rates of reported piracy are at their lowest since 2006,' said Michael Frodl of U.S.-based consultancy C-Level Maritime Risks.

Unlike the dangerous waters off Somalia and the Horn of Africa on the east coast of Africa, through which ships now speed with armed guards on board, many vessels have to anchor to do business off West African countries, with little protection.

This makes them a target for criminals and jacks up insurance costs. Kidnapped sailors and oil workers taken in Nigerian waters are usually released after a ransom is paid.

In a separate incident, three Nigerian soldiers were killed on Tuesday when armed robbers attacked a vessel carrying construction workers in the creeks of oil-producing Rivers state, the army said on Thursday.

9. The pirates who changed a ship's name to keep it hidden from authorities

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The Strait of Malacca running between Malaysia and Indonesia, a shipping superhighway where more than half the oil imported by Japan and China is carried, are thought to be some of the world's most dangerous waters. An attack in May 2014 displayed some of the brazen characteristics common to the area's well-coordinated pirates.

As evening approached, ten armed men pulled up to the tanker Orapin 4 in a speedboat and burst onto the bridge of the carrier. The ship was carrying fuel between Singapore and Borneo for a Thai shipping company. The 14 man crew was locked below the deck, and the communications system was disabled. The pirates then covered the first and last letters of the boat name, distorting the name to read "Rapi." When the ship was declared missing in radio alerts, the "Rapi" went unnoticed by other boats in the area. Meanwhile, the bandits siphoned off 3,700 metric tons of fuel into another boat and made off with $1.9 million in fuel.

10. ‘Pirates’ raid Japanese trawler off Peru coast

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LIMA: A gang of criminals known as "the pirates of the sea" raided a Japanese tuna trawler off the central Peruvian coast, the office of the port of Callao harbor master said Sunday.

The criminals boarded the 'Kenyu Maru II' before dawn and surprised the 15-person crew, the office said in a statement.

The gang of some 20 criminals tied the crew's hands and feet, then took off with their money, cell phones and the ship's communication equipment.

The Japanese ship was anchored some five kilometers (three miles) from the port of Callao, Peru's main port and part of the metropolis that includes the capital Lima.

The criminals reached the ship aboard two rowboats, the statement said. Port officials say it is the second time this year that a foreign ship was assaulted by criminals off the port of Callao.

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