Increasingly brazen attacks jeopardize the delivery of humanitarian aid and inspire calls for tough action.
The French government is leading calls for more aggressive international action against Somali pirates, amid an alarming surge in hijackings at sea.
Those calls gained more urgency after the latest attack Sunday, when armed bandits in speedboats hijacked a Greek cargo ship and its 19-member crew. That brought the number of such attacks since January to 59, with more than 300 crew and 13 ships remaining in pirates' hands, according to an Associated Press report.
The US Navy leads a coalition whose warships patrol international waters off Somalia. But that force has not been sufficient to deter the pirates, who are carrying out increasingly brazen and frequent hijackings and raking in huge profits from ransom money.
The pirates are threatening maritime trade along key shipping routes in the Gulf of Aden and off Somalia's southern coast. That's caused insurance fees to spike dramatically. It is also complicating the delivery of humanitarian aid to Somalia, a failed state that can neither feed its own people nor assert its authority over rampant thuggery and Islamic insurgents.
The Inquirer, a Filipino daily, reported that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for punitive action against the pirates.