Page last updated at 23:28 GMT, Friday, 12 June 2009 00:28 UK

Pirates expand to Oman's waters

Pirate (File photo)
Warnings have been issued about Somali pirates extending their reach

A cargo vessel has been hijacked by suspected Somali pirates off the coast of Oman - the first such attack in the area, Nato says.

MV Charelle, under the Antigua and Barbuda flag, was attacked 60 nautical miles south of Sur on the Omani coast.

It was the "first case of armed robbery outside the [pirates'] normal operations area," Lt Cmdr Alexandre Fernandes told Reuters news agency.

The vessel is now thought to be heading towards Somalia.

Lt Cmdr Fernandes, on board a Portuguese anti-piracy patrol near the Gulf of Aden, said the pirates were "probably looking for other areas of operations where there are less patrols by warships".

There was no information about the number of crew or their nationalities.

This week, the US Navy warned that Somali pirates were expanding their range of operations far beyond the East African coast.

One attack has been confirmed on a ship as far north as the Red Sea. The gangs have also extended their raids down beyond the Seychelles.

The pirates were able to strike further away from the coast with the help of bigger mother ships, said the US Navy.

Somalia has been without a stable government since 1991, allowing piracy to flourish.

More than 30,000 vessels annually transit the pirate-plagued Gulf of Aden and the busy shipping lane has offered rich pickings for raiders.

The gangs are currently holding 14 ships and more than 200 seamen in the region.

When first loaded, the map's focus falls on Somalia where most of the pirates are based. Use the arrow icons to scroll left towards Europe and the United States which are both playing a central role in tackling the problem.

Scroll to the right for a story about the Philippines, which supplies many of the world's mariners.

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