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Page last updated at 11:43 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 12:43 UK

Somali pirate ships 'work as one'

A French warship on anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden
The EU mission has escorted 23 ships carrying humanitarian aid

There is evidence that Somali pirate ships are co-ordinating their attacks, the commander of the European Union's anti-piracy mission says.

But Rear Adm Phillip Jones said it did not support claims from a leaked military intelligence report that attacks were orchestrated from London.

He said European warships had searched four recently captured mother-ships.

They found they had been exchanging information on the positions of vessels they had spotted or tried to attack.

Somalia has been without a stable government since 1991, allowing piracy to flourish. The problem worsened in the first months of 2009.

'Bemused'

The BBC's Oana Lungescu in Brussels says the leaked intelligence report said Somali pirates using satellite phones received tip-offs from a network of contacts in London about vessels, routes and cargoes.

The report, which according to Spanish radio came from an unspecified European country, listed several attacks where pirates had surprised the crew with how much they knew, including the nationalities of those on board.

In his first official reaction, Rear Adm Jones said he was bemused by the report, but was redoubling efforts to make sure no information became widely available.

Since December, the EU mission has escorted 23 ships carrying humanitarian aid for one and a half million Somalis and detained 52 pirates.

But Rear Adm Jones said that attacks had recently spiked and 14 ships were currently being held.



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