Somali piracy death toll rises

2012-06-22 13:42

London - Somali pirates seizing Indian Ocean ships were responsible for at least 35 hostage deaths in 2011, a report showed on Friday, with levels of violence rising.

The number of prisoners taken by pirates fell to 555, at least, in 2011 from 645 in 2010, the report by the US-based One Earth Future foundation and International Maritime Bureau said.

Eight were known to have been killed by their captors either during their initial capture or were executed later, it said, with another eight dying of malnutrition or disease. The remainder were killed either during rescue attempts by military forces or while trying to escape.

While solid data on previous years is limited, the total of 35 is seen as by far the highest number of piracy-related fatalities in a single year.

"We know these figures are almost certainly an underestimate," project manager Kaija Hurlburt said. "A lot of the ships now being taken are regional dhows that are often never reported. They might have 12 to 20 people aboard each time."

Despite a major naval effort by several nations, hundreds of young Somalis engage in piracy every year in the hope of ransoms that can run to millions of dollars.

With some ship-owners apparently simply abandoning their vessels and crews, particularly the smaller more vulnerable craft, crews have found themselves held for ever longer periods.

Tougher action

As more and more merchant ships carry armed guards, foreign navies take tougher action and some ship-owners prove unable or unwilling to pay up, some believe piracy itself is getting harder - and that is being taken out on those in captivity.

At least 149 hostages had now been held for more than a year, the report said, with 26 held for more than two years. Many of those released reported abuse including beatings, removal of fingernails and dumping in the sea.

More than 40% said that at some stage they had been used as human shields, often when pirates sailed captured vessels back out to sea to act as mother ships for new attacks. Most hostages were from developing countries, particularly the Philippines, India and China as well as Gulf and African states.

The level of violence being used was also increasing, the report said. In 2011, more than 3 800 personnel were aboard ships that were attacked by pirates with firearms in what were often prolonged and brutal assaults.

Casualties among the pirates were also almost certainly on the rise, with reports of at least 111 killed in 2011, some 70% in clashes with increasingly aggressive naval forces.

  • martin.britchford.5 - 2012-06-22 14:27

    this problem exists because they are given rights, shoot them dead, sink their boats, dont give them a chance to respond on radio or anything, just eliminate them, no quarter

  • flysouth - 2012-06-22 14:29

    I cannot understand the problem here - modern surveillance methods plus aggressive military action can sort this out in a heartbeat. I watched a video a while back where a French army helicopter had tailed a pirate boat, using various technologies, to the shore. Once it was clear that the pirates were about to escape the helo opened up with rockets and machine guns and wasted everybody - no survivors, no prisoners. Such examples, if carried out often enough will most certainly act as a serious deterrent to piracy. And at least one thing is certain - they will not be doing piracy anymore! Other examples have been seen, where navy ships have sunk pirate ships but only after the crew has been removed to be taken to trial. Rubbish - they should be kept on the ship whilst it is being shelled and any survivors left to swim for it.

      donovan.hendricks.7 - 2012-06-22 17:44

      True what you are saying but I think someone very high and powerful is benefitting from this tragedy if you ask me,that's why there is reluctance to stop these thugs once and for all,like war keeps the weaponmakers in bussines,these robbers keep someone else in bussines.

  • Dean - 2012-06-22 14:43

    In the words of Metallica...Kill 'em all.

  • Thomas - 2012-06-24 02:07

    If Sadat Hussein, Gadafi and Bin Laden could be eliminated, surely the civilised world with all its technology should be able to curb the curse of these rampaging and ruthless marine criminals!

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