Tracking down Somali pirates

Satellite images could play a crucial role in the fight against pirates from Somalia.
CBS News

Jessica Buchanan, the young American aid worker navy seals rescued from Somali pirates earlier this week, remains at a U.S. naval base in Sicily Saturday night. Eyes in the sky could play a crucial role in the fight against the pirates, as Charlie D'Agata reports from London.

Despite the military firepower of 30 nations patrolling the coast of Somalia, pirate attacks are on the increase. In 2011 alone, Somali pirates hijacked 28 ships and captured 470 hostages. Fifteen of those hostages were killed and 151 are still being held.

The ransoms paid out amounted to more than $250 million. It's an astronomical amount of money in one of the poorest countries in the world where the average salary is $300 a year.

Piracy is big business. And business is booming.

Dr. Anja Shortland has studied high-resolution satellite images to track the treasure trail with surprising results. Far away from the coastal villages from where they launch their attacks, the pirate safe havens of Garowe and Bossasa have become boomtowns.

"They happen to be the two cities that are very closely associated with piracy," said Shortland, "Garowe being the source of the militiamen that provide the firepower behind the pirate crews, [and] Bosasso being the boomtown through which all the pirate equipment would be imported."

Video: Jessica Buchanan's debriefing continued
Details emerge of SEAL rescue raid in Somalia

Satellite images reveal the sprawl including a new mosque in a growing neighborhood and elsewhere a new hotel.

And even though just tiny specs not easily seen, Shortland also found images of nighttime light -- another giveaway. Electricity is a luxury in Somalia. Surprisingly the coastal towns are left in the dark

"What I expected to see was the pirate villages on the coast lighting up like a string of pearls," said Shortland. "And there is nothing. There is not no evidence whatsoever of electricity being used."

Coastal villages have failed to benefit from any pirate booty. The brains and muscle of the operations merely use the villages to launch their attacks and keep their hostages well away from the coast.

Among those still held in Somalia are American journalist Michael Scott Moore from California, who was abducted last Saturday. Somali pirates have threatened to kill Moore if the United States attempts another Navy SEAL rescue.