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Five pirate attacks repelled off Somalia in one day

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  • Five commercial vessels fend off attacks in Gulf of Aden
  • Crew used fire hoses to ward off armed pirates, official says
  • Ransom helping fund Somali civil war, institute's report says
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(CNN) -- Five attempts to hijack ships off the coast of Somalia were thwarted Tuesday by the ships' crews, the U.S.-led coalition that monitors the region said Wednesday.

"Even when shots were fired during two of these attacks, the crews of commercial shipping vessels conducted evasive maneuvering and used fire hoses to repel their attackers," the Combined Maritime Forces, a U.S.-led naval coalition involving several nations, said in a statement.

Even in a region plagued by piracy, five hijacking attempts in one day may be a record.

Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of the Combined Maritime Forces, praised the commercial ships' crews.

"The proactive measures taken yesterday by merchant vessels are exactly what we have been recommending," he said in Wednesday's statement.

More than 60 ships have been attacked by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden this year, compared with about half that many in all of 2007, according to a report released this month by Chatham House, an institute in London, England, that analyzes international affairs.

The report found that the $18 million to $30 million in ransoms paid this year for pirated ships is helping finance the civil war in Somalia.

Al-Shabaab, an Islamic militant group that is waging a bloody battle for control of Somalia, is reported to be among groups receiving ransom money from pirates.

This month, NATO dispatched seven warships off Somalia's coast to help battle piracy and protect U.N. World Food Program ships carrying relief supplies to Somalia.

Millions in famine-stricken Somalia depend on the U.N. supplies, nearly all of which are delivered by sea.

Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein welcomed NATO's move last week, saying the warships "have our full consent to fight against the pirates."

The NATO ships are part of an international effort to curb the hijackings in the the Gulf of Aden, which touches Somalia's north coast.

The U.S.-led Combined Maritime Forces has no formal agreement with other navies, but Gortney said "they have been communicating with each other and sharing information to more effectively patrol the area."

Pirates still are holding a Ukrainian ship carrying Soviet-made tanks, artillery shells, grenade launchers and small arms off Somalia's coast and are demanding a $20 million ransom. The MV Faina was seized in late September and is being monitored by nearby U.S. naval ships.

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