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Page last updated at 12:04 GMT, Monday, 11 May 2009 13:04 UK

Ransoms blamed for Somali piracy

South Korean military sniper on a helicopter aiming at a pirate boat off Somalia
Pirate attacks have risen despite increased naval patrols

A Somali minister has said the problem of piracy in the region is being made worse by the international community paying ransoms.

Abdul Karis Osman Issa, public works minister in semi-autonomous Puntland, said investment should be directed at beefing up mainland security.

He said the pirates are better financed and armed than the regional government.

Meanwhile, Mogadishu is reportedly calm after three days of fierce fighting which left more than 50 people dead.

The public works minister told the BBC the budget for the administration in Puntland, north-east Somalia, where most of the pirates are based, was "very, very, limited".

He added: "If the international community helps the Puntland government, Puntland government can do a lot of things, even they can eliminate the pirates.

"But the international community, they don't want to help the Puntland state, they want to pay ransoms.

"They are just running for ransom, you know... and giving to these pirates and this is what made them strong.

"They are giving millions of dollars so this is the problem, created by the international community first."

'Million dollar question'

Navies from Nato, the EU, Russia, Japan, China, India, Yemen, US, Malaysia and Singapore have been patrolling the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden to deter pirates, but the number of attacks has continued to rise.

A young girl is rushed to Medina Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, on 10 May 2009
This is the tragedy of Somalia - every group is hiding another group, which is itself hiding another group
Mohammed Ould Abdullah
UN special representative

The sea bandits have hijacked more than two dozen vessels this year.

The BBC's Peter Greste in Puntland's commercial capital, Bosasso, says there is a consensus among diplomats and military commanders that the problem of piracy can only be solved on land, not at sea.

Our correspondent says the lucrative life of piracy often seems a dangerously attractive alternative for jobless young men in the deprived region.

Meanwhile, a tense calm prevailed in Mogadishu on Monday after what correspondents described as the fiercest fighting in years.

The fighting began on Thursday and escalated late on Saturday in a district close to the presidential palace.

Journalist Mohammed Sheikh Noor in Mogadishu told the BBC's Network Africa programme residents were fleeing with their belongings and the bodies of civilians killed in the clashes were littering the street.

The fragile interim government has been fighting radical Islamist groups like al-Shabab in long-running violence which has killed thousands of people since 2006.

The UN's special representative to Somalia, Mohammed Ould Abdullah, told Network Africa what the radical Islamists actually wanted was the "million dollar question".

He said efforts to negotiate peace were complicated by the constantly shifting array of factions.

"Increasingly people are realising some of the Somalis who have brought their country to chaos and anarchy over the last 18 years are not interested in any dialogue," he said.

"This is the tragedy of Somalia - every group is hiding another group, which is itself hiding another group."

Somalia, a nation of about eight million people, has experienced almost constant conflict since the collapse of its central government in January 1991.

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.

You can zoom in for more detail by using the "+" or "-" signs on the upper left hand side.



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