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FACTBOX: Ships held by Somali pirates

(Reuters) - U.S. Navy special forces freed an American ship’s captain and killed three Somali pirates holding him hostage in a lifeboat, ending a five-day standoff.

The Maersk Alabama, with a crew of 20 U.S. sailors, was seized on April 8 but the crew retook control after a confrontation with the pirates and the captain was taken hostage.

Somali pirates have vowed to avenge the shooting of their comrades on the Maersk Alabama, as well as from the French military assault to rescue a yacht on Friday in which two pirates were killed and three captured.

However, the pirates have released the Norwegian-owned tanker Bow Asir, which was taken at the end of March. The 27-member crew were unharmed.

Pirates have attacked at least 15 vessels off the coast of Somalia last month after only two in January and February.

Below are facts about the ships believed to be under pirate control and about the increase in piracy:

STOLT STRENGTH: Seized November 10. The chemical tanker had 23 Filipino crew aboard. It was carrying nearly 24,000 tons of oil products.

CHEMSTAR VENUS: Seized November 15. The tanker was traveling from Dumai, Indonesia, to Ukraine. It had 18 Filipino and five South Korean crew.

NAMES UKNOWN: Seized on December 10. Pirates hijacked two Yemeni fishing vessels with a total of 22 crew in coastal waters in the Gulf of Aden. Five crew reportedly escaped.

NAMES UNKNOWN: Seized on December 16. A yacht with two on board, an Indonesian tugboat used by French oil company Total.

LONGCHAMP: Seized on January 29, 2009. The liquefied petroleum gas tanker, built in 1990, had 13 crew on board, 12 Filipinos and one Indonesian. The tanker has a capacity of 3,415 tons.

SALDANHA: Seized on February 22. The Maltese-flagged cargo ship, sailing to Slovenia, has 22 crew and was loaded with coal. TITAN: Seized on March 19. The 43,000 dwt Saint-Vincent-flagged cargo vessel with 24 crew was sailing from the Black Sea when it was attacked by pirates.

NIPAYIYA: Seized on March 25. The Greek-owned and Panama-registered MT Nipayia, was seized by pirates 450 miles from Somalia’s south coast.

INDIAN OCEAN EXPLORER: Seized March 2009. The 35-meter boat was built in Hamburg as an oceanographic research vessel. It accommodates around 12 passengers. The yacht Serenity with three people on board was seized in late February or early March.

HANSA STAVANGER - Seized April 4, 2009. The 20,000-tonne German container vessel was captured about 400 miles off the southern Somali port of Kismayu, between the Seychelles and Kenya. The vessel had a German captain, three Russians, two Ukrainians and 14 Filipinos on board.

MALASPINA CASTLE - Seized April 6, 2009. The 32,500-tonne bulker is UK-owned but operated by Italians. A Taiwanese tuna fishing beat, the WIN FAR 161, is seized on the same day.

BUCCANEER - Seized April 11, 2009. The Italian tugboat, owned by Micoperi Marine Contractors, was carrying 10 Italians, 5 Romanians and a Croatian, was seized towing two barges while traveling westbound through the Gulf of Aden. Two other Egyptian boats carrying 24 crew were also seized.

* PIRACY KEY FACTS:

-- In 2008 there were 293 incidents of piracy against ships worldwide -- 11 percent up on the year before. Attacks off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden increased nearly 200 percent.

-- All types of vessels have been targeted. The pirates boarding the vessels were also better armed than in previous years and prepared to assault and injure the crew.

Sources: Reuters/International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Center/Lloyds List/Inquirer.net

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