As authorities in France react to the seizure of a French yacht by Somali pirates, the maritime outlaws have now hijacked an Egyptian ship.
Gangs have seized at least 30 vessels so far this year in the Gulf of Aden. Somalia’s coastline is considered one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world, with pirates making the most of the chaos and instability in the Horn of Africa nation.
“The pirates usually intercept boats outside Somali waters and then protect themselves by going back into the territorial waters,” said French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevalier.
“Until now, it was not possible to go after them. We needed long talks with the Somali government. But now, with the Security Council resolution, we can do this.”
France is still considering the best way to save its two hostages. But the UN Security Council did vote in June to allow countries to send warships into Somalia’s waters in pursuit of pirates, with the agreement of the country’s interim government.
The hijackers tend to target slow merchant ships with a reduced crew and their attacks usually follow the same pattern.
“It is about seizing prey, bringing it back to base and, once it is considered secure, negotiating with the ship’s owner to obtain the highest possible ransom,” said French Army spokesman Christophe Prazuck.
Despite increasing efforts to tackle piracy, hefty ransom payments are making highjacking on the high seas a lucrative business.
With around 10 vessels being held at the Somali gunmens’ base, reports say France is being asked to pay nearly 700,000 euros for the safe release of its two nationals.
While regular patrols have not stopped the lawlessness, elite teams are now being specially trained to deal with pirates. But it is a risky business, with the heavily-armed bandits prepared to stop at nothing to hang onto their booty.