Reuters has reported that Somali pirates attacke
d five more ships this week after a failed attempt to seize a luxury liner, in a sharp rise of banditry apparently directed by a mysterious "mother ship" prowling the Indian Ocean.
Most vessels escaped, but one was commandeered, bringing to nine the number of vessels being held captive along with their crews by pirates working the lawless southern section of the failed state's coastline, Africa's longest.
Officials said five vessels were attacked this week following Saturday's attempt to board the Bahamas-registered Seabourn Spirit, which was carrying 151 Western tourists.
Rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles were fired at the U.S.-owned Spirit by gunmen in two small speedboats, but the ship's captain managed to change course and speed away.
At the center of the wave of recent attacks is a mysterious, so-called mother ship that has been spotted three times since late July drifting off the northeast coast of Somalia.
After the failed raid on the Spirit, Mwangura said the pirates apparently raced back to the "mother ship," which then set off in an unsuccessful bid to catch the fleeing cruise ship.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said this week the situation was completely out of control
and very dangerous.
After two years of relative calm, IMB said 32 pirate attack
s had been recorded since mid-March, including raids on ships carrying supplies for the U.N. World Food Program.
Mwangura said nine ships were being held hostage by pirates, including vessels registered in Thailand, Taiwan, Malta and Ukraine. More than 100 crew members were being held for ransom.
Somalia has been ruled by rival warlords since dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. Many of the warlords are believed to run gangs who smuggle drugs, weapons and people by road, sea and air around the region.
On Wednesday the UN Security Council scolded Somalia's squabbling government and urged rival factions to come together to confront the chaos and piracy plaguing the lawless nation.