Six officers and one other crew member of the M/V Asphalt Venture are being held at an undisclosed location after the ship

The United Nations International Maritime Organization (IMO) has condemned the use of sailors as human shields after Somali pirates continued to detain seven crew members of a recently released ship even though a ransom had been reportedly paid.

Africa - Six officers and one other crew member of the M/V Asphalt Venture are being held at an undisclosed location after the ship and the rest of the people aboard were released by pirates off Somalia last Thursday, nearly seven months after they were hijacked.

In a statement issued yesterday from its London headquarters, IMO stressed that it deplores all acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships and the treatment of seafarers held hostage.

"Using seafarers as human shields to continue to engage in piracy - one of the most heinous of crimes against humanity at sea - is totally unacceptable," the agency said.

IMO is backing a new "Save Our Seafarers" campaign launched by the shipping industry, saying that the safety and well-being of sailors should be of paramount importance to any strategy to respond to piracy.

The agency's statement comes amid mounting international concern about the problem of piracy, particularly in the waters off Somalia.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that the Trust Fund to Support Initiatives of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia needs more resources to carry out its mandate.

The trust fund's board has approved 12 projects worth $4.3 million since the fund was created in January last year, including a media project to disseminate anti-piracy messages in the region and other initiatives to strengthen law enforcement and criminal justice in Somalia, Kenya and Seychelles.

In a message to an event in Dubai to support the trust fund, delivered on his behalf by UN Legal Counsel Patricia O'Brien, Mr. Ban said the fund offered an opportunity to translate regional and global concerns into concrete actions.

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