(HOBYO, Somalia) -- High seas pirates, which have preyed on tankers and cargo ships, are expanding and becoming an increasing menace to tourists and corporate travelers.
The most jarring example is a tactic that is a throwback to the days of sea raiders. Most recently, a wealthy British publisher David Tebbutt and his wife Judith were vacationing at a coastal Kenyan resort when they were attacked from the sea.
Tebbutt was shot dead and his wife was taken away by boat and is still missing. While the attackers have not been caught, some fear a Somali pirate gang could be responsible.
Michelle Bernier-Toth, the managing director for overseas citizens service at the U.S. Department of State, says that piracy is something that people should be worried about and should not be taken lightly.
Bernier-Toth also said that the geographic area covered by pirates is constantly growing. Private vessels, like yachts, often face greater risks than merchant marine vessels because they do not have the same security measures.
Business has been good for pirates, especially in the area of hostage and ransom operations. An average pirate ransom in 2008 was $1 million. In 2011, the average ransom is between $4 million and $5 million, according to the London-based International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center.
Due to this financial success, pirate attacks and kidnappings have been on the rise since 2008 and the numbers are staggering.
In 2011 alone, there have been 330 reported worldwide incidents of piracy. Over 50 percent of these have been Somali-related and occurred along the coast of the Horn of Africa in the Indian Ocean.
Right now, there are 16 vessels and 301 hostages being held by Somali pirates. While the majority of these are commercial vessels, since 2008, tourists from the United States, Germany, England and France have all been victims of pirate attacks.
Four Americans on a yacht were killed by Somali pirates in February 2011, marking the first time U.S. citizens have been victims.
Most experts advise travelers to stay out of known danger zones.
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