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Why Somali pirates are hijacking yachts in Seychelles

Missing British couple's yacht was found adrift near the Seychelles. Somali pirates are going further afield to dodge US, European naval patrols.

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer / October 29, 2009

The yacht Lynn Rival, belonging to a British couple apparently taken captive by pirates off the east coast of Africa, is shown adrift in this image from Wednesday.

EU NAVFOR/AP

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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – With a mild tropical climate, magnificent palm-fringed beaches, Creole cuisine – and a distinct lack of naval patrols – it’s easy to see why the Seychelles Islands are a new base for Somali pirates.

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Just this week, pirates from the port city of Haradhere, Somalia, picked up a Russian-owned tuna trawler with a crew of 25 and hijacked a British couple on their yacht – both of them just a few hundred miles off the Seychelles Island chain in the Indian Ocean.

According to Agence France-Presse news service, a European Union naval patrol plain spotted pirate skiffs aboard the Russian owned, Thai-flagged “Thai Union 3” fishing ship. A known Somali pirate leader said his men also captured Paul and Rachel Chandler, on their way from the Seychelles islands toward Tanzania. The Chandlers’ yacht was later discovered adrift, without its owners.

With the Indian Ocean monsoon season finished for 2009, the brief respite in the world’s biggest piracy problem is now officially over. Somali pirates have gone back to work. And despite beefed-up European and American naval task forces in the Indian Ocean (as well as those from India, China, and Japan), and now US military drones, pirates retain the upper hand, venturing as far away as the Seychelles to ply their trade.

To understand why Somali pirates would venture so far from home, let’s do the math. The Indian Ocean is about 26 million square miles, if you include all the waters from the African coast to Indonesia. Standard-issue pirate skiffs generally have a range of anywhere from 50 to 100 miles a day, but if a pirate skiff has taken control of a commercial ocean-going freighter that pirates can use as a mother ship, well, the world’s their oyster.

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