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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 07:06 GMT
Piracy terror attack warning
MV Alondra Rainbow, hijacked off the coast of India, November, 1999
Attacks by pirates are becoming more violent
Freighters carrying payloads of fuel could be hijacked and used in terror operations similar to the 11 September attacks on America, according to a new report.

The study, by a global piracy watchdog, says ships transporting liquified natural gas could be used by terrorists "to undergo suicide missions for their cause".

After the 11 September terrorist attacks in the US, there is now a real fear that terrorists could use a ship as a weapon

Piracy Reporting Center
The International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center says security "should become a top priority for the maritime industry" to prevent such incidents from happening.

It says that while the number of pirate attacks declined in 2001 from a peak the year before, firearms are being used more often and the attacks are getting more violent.

Twenty-one seafarers died last year at the hands of the pirates, according to the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which collects details of incidents.

Organised crime

While in the past piracy usually involved the attackers coming on board a ship to steal money or valuable items of cargo, he said there was now evidence of the involvement of organised crime with whole ships being stolen to order.

Peter Blake
New Zealand yachtsman Peter Blake was killed by pirates in December, 2001

The report raises concern over the ease with which, it says, it is possible to obtain forged ship and crew documents.

The people behind this kind of piracy have the facilities to unload the cargo and then repaint and rename the ship giving it a new identity.

In one incident last year pirates stole a ship carrying cargo of tin and pepper valued at more than $2m.

The master and crew were dumped on an uninhabited Indonesian island.

Piracy is still largely an east Asian phenomenon, although the report praises the Malaysian authorities for their success in reducing piracy in the Malacca Straits.

It said while South East Asian waters remained the most dangerous, piracy was also on the increase in Africa, particularly in Nigeria, the Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Tanzania.

The BBC's John Duce
"Some attacks are the work of organised crime syndicates"
See also:

26 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Pirate attacks provoke action call
31 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Piracy at 10-year high
01 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia 'piracy hotspot'
31 Jul 00 | South Asia
Pirate attacks almost double
27 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Asian nations tackle piracy
03 Feb 99 | Asia-Pacific
'China letting pirates go free'
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