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Somali pirates nab two more ships, one in protected Gulf of Aden

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(Read caption) The St James Park, a UK-flagged chemical tanker is seen on the River Thames at Northfleet in Essex, southern England in this October 4 file photo.

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Somalia's modern-day brigands are at it again, this time seizing a chemical tanker and a cargo vessel on Monday.

Pirates are now holding more than ten ships and 200 crew members of different nationalities, according to maritime officials. And in the past few days, they've reportedly raked in a cool $7.5 million in year-end booty.

An official with Navios ShipManagement, the managers of the Panama-registered cargo ship, Navios Apollon, told Reuters that the vessel was seized Monday about 800 miles off the Somali coast, north of the Seychelles archipelago.

Given the location of the seizure, it shouldn't come as a surprise that pirates were able to take that ship.

As the Monitor reported a month ago, when pirates seized an oil tanker in the same area, the international anti-piracy forces focus on patrolling shipping lanes in the Gulf of Aden, between Somalia and Yemen. As pirates have been moving farther out into the Indian Ocean, they face much less resistance from international navies.

But the other ship seized by pirates Monday, the British-flagged chemical tanker St. James Park, was reportedly taken in the supposedly well-protected Gulf of Aden. This will no doubt raise further questions about the effectiveness of the international effort to curb piracy, headquartered at the US Fifth Fleet's base in Bahrain.

The Telegraph reports that the St. James Park was seized by the same group of pirates holding British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler hostage since late October.

Pirates yesterday released the Singaporean-flagged container ship Kota Wajar, saying they received $4 million for the vessel seized in October near the Seychelles.

Not too shabby.

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And that comes just one day after pirates released a Chinese bulk carrier, which they had been also holding since October. The statement from China's foreign ministry made no mention of a reported $3.5 million ransom payment, but pirates told journalists they had received the money, reportedly dropped from a helicopter.

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