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Last updated at 15:20 BST, Monday, 25 June 2012

Somali piracy gets more violent

Summary

25 June 2012

Maritime officials say there has been a big increase in the number of hostages killed and injured by Somali pirates. In a new report, the International Maritime Bureau and One Earth Future organisation say that although the number of successful hijackings has gone down over the past year, Somali piracy has become more violent.

Reporter:

Mary Harper

MV Jag Arnav ship

MV Jag Arnav ship after escaping a hijack attempt by Somali pirates.

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Report

The report describes as significant the increase in hostage deaths last year. 35 people died - that's 3% of all hostages taken. Most were killed during rescue operations, a sign that the increasingly robust way of dealing with pirates makes life more dangerous for the hostages. Others died from malnutrition or disease. It used to be rare for a captive to die. For the pirates, who are principally interested in ransom payments, they were worth more alive than dead.

The report describes the often brutal treatment of crew members. Last year nearly 4,000 seafarers were fired upon by Somali pirates. Half of all hostages were subjected to what the report describes as moderate abuse including punching and slapping. 10% suffered violent abuse such as being locked in freezers, burned with cigarettes and having their fingernails pulled out with pliers.

The report also says that last year there was a 50% increase in the length of time people are kept hostage - it's now an average of eight months. Some have been kept for more than two years, such as the crew of the Panama-flagged MV Iceberg who have been held hostage since March 2010. The report says the ship's owner has gone out of business so there is nobody to negotiate the crew's release. The Director of the International Maritime Bureau, said that although a lot of attention is given to Somali piracy, the human cost on seafarers and their families is often ignored.

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Vocabulary

significant

sufficiently great or important to be worthy of attention

robust

strong and vigorous

malnutrition

lack of proper nutrition

captive

prisoner

principally

for the most part / mainly

brutal

extremely violent

seafarers

people who work as sailors

subjected to

suffered from

crew

people working on the ship

negotiate

try to reach an agreement for (the crew's release)

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