MOGADISHU, Somalia, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Attacks on merchant ships by pirates around the Horn of Africa are on the increase, officials said.
Pirates captured 53 ships in the region in 2010, up from 51 in 2009, USA Today reported.
Officials said pirates have changed their tactics and can now prey on merchant ships farther out at sea, enabling them to evade an international flotilla established two years ago to protect shipping lanes.
Australian navy Capt. Tony Aldred, director of operations for the Combined Maritime Forces, said some pirates use a "mother ship" to scout for their targets, then dispatch smaller vessels to conduct the attack.
"The pirates have actually changed the way they do business," Aldred said. "They are operating far more broadly across an area that's about 2.5 million square miles."
There were 160 attempted attacks in 2010, up from 145 in 2009, said the Combined Maritime Forces, which oversees operations to protect commercial shipping operations.
Currently 31 ships are being held with more than 600 crewmen. Most were seized by Somali pirates.