2008 Pirates! Watch your Yachts Rich Kids..

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A French yacht. A Japanese tanker. A Spanish fishing boat. After several years of decline, pirates are striking with increasing frequency on the high seas.

Attacks in the first three months of this year were up 20 percent compared with the same period in 2007, analysts say. Last year saw more pirate attacks than the year before. And while the motive is still money, today’s pirates are a far cry from the eye-patched, peg-legged swashbucklers of Hollywood.

“The only thing today’s pirates have in common with the romantic vision people have of pirates is that they are ruthless criminals who exploit very vulnerable people at sea,” said Pottengal Mukundan of the International Maritime Bureau, which monitors shipping crime.

Today’s maritime muggers don night-vision goggles, carry rocket launchers and navigate with global positioning devices. With the ransoms they collect, pirates can sometimes earn up to $40,000 a year, analysts say. That’s a fortune for someone from an impoverished country. A spate of well-publicized attacks this month has cast the problem in sharp relief.

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