Smarter' pirates worries NATO

11:37, January 15, 2011      

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The North Atlantic Treaty Organizations (NATO) have expressed their concern that pirates have devised new methods to attack ships in the deep sea, thus complicating the fight against the menace.

Addressing a news conference in Mombasa, the Commander of NATO' s Counter Piracy mission, from the Commodore Michiel Hijmans (Royal Netherlands Navy), said pirates have become "smarter".

The official who spoke on onboard Frigate HNLMS De Ruyter, which had called at the port of Mombasa, said the fight was not easy since the pirates have ganged up in various action groups and use motherships from where they launch their attacks, with hostages onboard. "They have been attacking more merchant ships and converting them as motherships, thereby its difficult for us to know whether they are really pirates, and if that is the case, whether the hostages are safe or not," Hijmans said.

The commander added that the pirates have also been using the strong rooms in the vessels, to avoid being detected and as a perfect method to ensure they are not smoked out of ships.

During the press conference, Hijmans received a distress call over two attacks in which nine pirates had hijacked one of the vessels in the Arabian waters, with the crew being in the strongroom at Citadel.

"I have to break this but I promise to be back, there has been an attack and the details are scanty, I have to send a helicopter and coordinate the team to go to the area," he said.

He urged the Kenyan government to do more to fight piracy, saying the vice has affected the country's economy including cruise tourism, diving and fishing expeditions, among other trades.

Hijmans added that at times it has been difficult to distinguish between normal fishing vessels and those used by pirates since they disguise themselves with those used as human migrant ferries to traffic immigrants to Yemen.

He at the same time said the pirates keep on changing sim cards in the phones they use, and termed Puntland as one of the areas with the best mobile phone system and coverage, which encourages the groups. "We cannot say we have failed in the fight, am sure if we are not in the waters, a lot of piracy cases would be reported on a daily basis," he said.

The commander said two days ago, the team, with 212 crew on board, managed to disrupt a piracy group that had hijacked a ship carrying explosives and managed to scare them away but they left with the crew.

He stressed the need for international communities to work together, and step up efforts in the fight.

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