An armed Somali pirate. Photograph: Mohamed Dahir/AFP/Getty Images
• Somali pirates were responsible for 44% of the 289 piracy incidents on the world’s seas in the first nine months of 2010, according to the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
• Of 39 ship hijackings, 35 were carried out by Somali pirates.
• There is evidence that Somali pirates are gaining in confidence, carrying out more attacks away from their own coast. According to the IMB, pirates are using oceangoing fishing vessels to reach as far as the southern Red Sea, where they hijacked a chemical tanker in July 2010 – the first such hijacking recorded in the area. Pirates are heavily armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, the IMB says.
• In the past nine months, pirates boarded 128 ships and fired at 52, with 70 vessels reportedly thwarting attacks. Pirates used guns in 137 incidents and knives in 66, killing one crew member, injuring 27 and taking 773 hostages, according to the IMB.
• In April last year, pirates attacked the container ship Maersk Alabama, taking the captain, Richard Phillips, hostage and holding him in a lifeboat at gunpoint. After five days, the US navy freed Phillips while killing three pirates in a night attack. In November, the ship was targeted for second time in seven months, but private guards on board repelled the attack with gunfire.
• In November 2008, Somali pirates hijacked the Saudi oil tanker Sirius Star, carrying 2m barrels of crude oil worth £68m, in the Indian Ocean. Pirates released the supertanker and its 25-strong crew, which included two Britons, after a ransom of £2m was reportedly paid on behalf of the ship’s owners in January 2009. The pirates had initially demanded more than £17m.
• Somali pirates seized a yacht being sailed by French couple, Chloé and Florent Lemaçon, in April last year. When negotiations broke down, the French stormed the boat and the pirates opened fire. Florent Lemaçon was killed during the operation, as were two of the five pirates.