International helping hand for Somalia

An international forum on tackling piracy off the coast of Somalia has opened in Rome. Aside from talking about measures to prevent hijackings, participants will discuss ways to bring peace to Somalia.

According to the United Nations, Somali pirates carried out at least 120 attacks on ships last year, resulting in combined ransom payouts of around $150 million.

Despite all this money floating just off the coast of Somalia, it remains a country facing widespread poverty, a severe lack of jobs, and where almost half the population needs food aid.

The pirates’ largest capture so far has been the Sirius Star – a giant Saudi oil tanker captured late last year. The ship was released after the owners paid a $3 million ransom.

Hundreds of sailors are still thought to be held hostage in northern parts of the country.

Russia, which also suffers from such hijackings, is calling on the world community to set up an international body to try the detained pirates.