Somali pirates have murdered two of their hostages in cold blood for the first time ever, according to Navfor, the European Naval force patrolling the Indian Ocean.
A spokesman told the BBC that pirates shot dead two Filipino crewmen in late January in retaliation for a failed rescue attempt.
In recent days pirates seized what could be their most precious cargo yet of crude oil, worth £140m.
Security correspondent Frank Gardner reports from Navfor headquarters at Northwood on the losing battle against piracy.
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