Pirate attacks in seas around Somalia

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The Independent Online

The increasing frequency of pirate attacks has seen cruise ships and supertankers targeted in the seas around Somalia.

Here is a timeline of recent attacks.

* February 1, 2008 - Captain Colin Darch, from Appledore, north Devon, was seized by pirates who attacked his ship off the coast of Somalia.

Captain Darch and his crew, including the Irish chief engineer and four Russian seamen, were released unharmed after 46 days.

* November 11, 2008 - Two suspected Somali pirates were killed when a Royal Navy warship came to the rescue of a Danish vessel which was being attacked.

HMS Cumberland and the Russian frigate Neustrashimy repelled the attempted raid in the Gulf of Aden after the pirates twice tried to board the ship.

* November 15, 2008 - Chief engineer Peter French, from County Durham, and second officer James Grady, from Strathclyde were among crewmembers on board the Sirius Star when it was hijacked by Somali pirates 450 nautical miles south-east of Mombasa.

The crew were eventually released on January 10, 2009, after a £2million ransom was reportedly paid by the supertanker's owners.

* November 21, 2008 - The world's largest shipping company announced its oil tankers would make a major detour to avoid the pirate-plagued waters off the Somali coast.

A spokesman for Maersk said it would reroute its 50-strong fleet via the Cape of Good Hope.

* March 4, 2009 - More than 1,000 Britons on a luxury round-the-world cruise were ushered to safety amid fears their ship was being followed by pirates.

The 218m-long Balmoral made emergency calls after encountering "suspicious" activity from two small craft in notorious waters off Somalia, Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said.

* April 6, 2009 - A British-owned cargo ship, the Malaspina castle, was hijacked by Somali pirates .

* April 25, 2009 - Terrified British cruise liner passengers told how fellow tourists fought off armed pirates by throwing tables and chairs at them.

The response repelled the attack by Somali pirates who tried to hijack the 35,000-tonne MSC Melody in the Indian Ocean.