Watchdog: Piracy not based on intelligence network

Pirate attacks off the Somali coast appear to be mainly opportunistic and there is no indication that vessels are targeted with the help of intelligence from international contacts, a maritime watchdog said Friday. The International Maritime Bureau said there was no evidence to support media reports that individuals with access to information about shipping routes and cargoes may be helping pirates to locate the most vulnerable ships, and ones most likely to yield large ransoms. Pirate raids on vessels off the Horn of Africa have surged this year, confounding authorities who have been hard-pressed to curb the assaults despite the deployment of an international task force of military craft. Many experts and authorities believe the pirates target ships almost at random, but the burgeoning business of collecting ransoms from shipping companies eager to free their crews and cargoes has triggered a debate about the degree of sophistication of the assailants. "Further allegations have been made in the press that London-based information channels have been utilized to provide intelligence to the pirate gangs," the London-based bureau said. "There is no evidence to support these allegations."