London, -The recent rise in piracy off the Somali coast has been partially fuelled by drought and famine, a top US army officer has said.

General Thomas Waldhauser, head of US Africa Command, said there had been half a dozen attacks in the last month.

About three million Somalis face food insecurity and a national disaster was declared last month, reported BBC.

Piracy was rampant off the Somali coast until increased patrols by European naval forces contained the problem.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis expressed concerns about the resurgence of Somali piracy during a visit to the American military base in Djibouti.

Mattis suggested commercial vessels should consider stepping up onboard security to guard against attacks at sea, saying the situation is being monitored but there was no plan of an immediate response.

One reason for the increase in the attacks is famine and droughts in the region, as some of the vessels targeted were carrying food and oil, Gen Waldhauser told a press conference.

The number of attacks peaked in 2011 before dropping to zero, mainly as a result of naval patrols and improved security measures by shipping companies.

Last month, an oil tanker was hijacked by suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia, the first such hijacking in the region in five years.

Somalia is one of four countries in Africa and the Middle East identified by the United Nations as currently at risk of extreme hunger and famine.(QNA)

Source: Qatar News Agency