27 September 2010

Somali Navy Begins Anti-Piracy Operations | AHN

Somali Navy Begins Anti-Piracy Operations | AHN

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23 September 2010

French Seamen Kidnapped In Pirate Raid Off Nigeria

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IGERIA – FRANCE - In a night time attack by pirates on the offshore oilfield Addax, three French crew of the ATHS (Anchor Handling Tug Supply) vessel Bourbon Alexandre were taken by force leaving the remaining thirteen crewmen aboard at the time unharmed but shaken. No ransom has been demanded at the time of going to press according to the vessels owners, Bourbon Offshore. In the early hours of this morning the Bourbon Alexandre was attacked by several small speedboats holding an armed gang. The attack comes only a week after more French nationals were seized in Niger, a crime claimed by Al Qaeda's North African wing which resulted in a total of seven kidnap victims, five of them French. This latest attack is more likely to be by an apolitical criminal gang which has ventured into maritime crime.
Bourbon has a crisis unit in Marseille which is coordinating a response with their opposite numbers in Nigeria and the authorities in both countries. The company has faced a similar situation in the past, in 2008 they had 10 crewmen seized off the Cameroon coast, a kidnap resolved satisfactorily when the captured men were released ten days later.
Most of the newsworthy pirate attacks on shipping off the Somali coast, in the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere have been on freight vessels such as container ships and slow moving bulk tankers but the 120 tonne ATHS would be easier to board if kidnap as opposed to seizure of the vessel plus cargo was your motive. Bourbon manages a rapidly expanding fleet of almost four hundred such support vessels operating from bases around the world, principally in oil exploration and recovery areas.
Photo: The Bourbon Arcadie (sister ship of the captured vessel) courtesy of Bourbon Offshore

14 September 2010

Somali Pirates Versus the US Navy - ABC News

Somali Pirates Versus the US Navy - ABC News: "

ABC News

Somali Pirates Versus the US Navy
ABC News
An armed Somali pirate is shown off the coast of Hobyo, Somalia, while a Greek cargo ship, MV Filitsa, that was captured by pirates is seen anchored in the ...


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09 September 2010

CNN: Marines oust pirate from ship

U.S. Marines boarded and seized control Thursday of a German-owned vessel that pirates had captured the day before off the coast of Somalia, the U.S. Fifth Fleet said.


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03 September 2010

An Old Scourge Needs a Modern Solution - New York Times

An Old Scourge Needs a Modern Solution - New York Times: "

An Old Scourge Needs a Modern Solution
New York Times
Pirate gangs have accrued $150 million in ransom to date, about $4 million per ship. Their take is likely to swell before year's end. ...
Denmark navy helicopter foils piratesLas Vegas Sun

all 3 news articles »

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Indonesia urged to increase anti-piracy patrols

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — An international maritime group urged Indonesia on Thursday to increase patrols in the South China Sea after pirates attacked nine vessels in less than three weeks.
The International Maritime Bureau said pirates armed with guns and machetes had robbed tankers and bulk carriers of cash and other valuables in the attacks off the Indonesian islands of Mangkai, Anambas and Natuna.
This brought the number of pirate attacks so far this year to 26 in the area, which is a transit route used by vessels heading southeast to the Singapore Straits or northwest to East Asia and the Pacific Ocean. Only seven attacks were reported all of last year.
The latest spate of attacks began Aug. 16, with pirates attacking mostly at night and sometimes raiding two to three vessels on the same day, said Noel Choong, who heads the IMB's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur. The last attack occurred Wednesday when six pirates boarded and robbed a Panama tanker before escaping.
"Three crewmen were injured in the latest series of attacks. It seems one or more pirate groups are operating in the area. The IMB is concerned about the heightened piracy and has sent a letter to the Indonesian authorities requesting them to increase patrols in the area," Choong said.
The IMB also urged ships to maintain a strict anti-piracy watch because pirates normally abort their attacks if they are spotted, he added.

Steep Hike In Pirate Attacks Off Indonesia: IMB

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Surge in pirate attacks

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KUALA LUMPUR - SEAFARERS have reported a surge in attacks by armed pirates in a South China Sea shipping lane, an international maritime watchdog said Thursday.
Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre, said there had been eight attacks off Indonesia's Mangkai island in the past two weeks.
'It appears one or more groups of pirates are operating in the area. Pirates are armed with guns and machetes and robbed vessels of cash and crew valuables,' he told AFP.
Since February the IMB has been informed of 26 attacks in the area, he said, adding that the maritime body had asked Indonesia to beef up patrols to prevent further incidents.
Mangkai island lies on a busy sea passage running along the east coast of the Malaysian peninsula. It is a major route for ships heading between East Asian nations and the Pacific Ocean.
After passing Mangkai they continue into the Malacca Strait, which was once the world's top piracy hotspot. In recent years however attacks there have dropped dramatically, thanks to coordinated patrols by border nations. -- AFP

In the heart of a Somali pirates' lair

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HOBYO, Somalia — Piracy off the coast of Somalia is booming despite a massive deployment of international warships, with an estimated combined coast of 40 million dollars a day.
NATO, the European Union, United States and other naval powers have sent warships to curb the hijacking of ships yet the number currently under the control of Somali pirates stands at 22, one of its highest ever levels.
Hundreds of suspected pirates have been captured but most had to be released immediately for lack of evidence.
On his first encounter with foreign journalists, Mohamed Garfanji, Somalia's top pirate boss, talks sparingly and has the edginess of a wanted man who never lowers his guard and is always planning his next move.
His eyes only stop scanning his surroundings when he breaks his silence, speaking with an intense gaze that is both menacing and playful.
Speaking to AFP in the town of Wisil in central Somalia, he thumbs through his mobile phone picture gallery for shots he and his boys took of foreign tuna seiners off the coast of Hobyo, their nearby base.
"See this one? Only a few months ago, 20 miles from Hobyo... And this one, a big Spanish ship," Garfanji says, raising his eyebrows expectantly.
"Now your armies have sent their soldiers so you can continue to take our fish," he says, clenched fist and gold wrist watch sticking out of the sleeve of a warm dark blue bomber jacket.
His sidekicks nod silently as they devotedly chew their daily bundle of khat, a narcotic leaf widely consumed in Somalia and whose stimulant qualities make it particularly prized by pirates.
His is a Robin Hood narrative of Somali piracy as a struggle by dispossessed fishermen against vessels from Europe and Asia violating Somalia's exclusive economic zone and poaching its abundant tuna under naval protection.
Three centuries before him, charismatic pirate Black Sam Bellamy railed against the powers "who rob the poor under the cover of the law" while "we plunder the rich under the protection of our own courage."
In Hobyo the following morning, one of his top lieutenants, Mohamed, stands on the beach, clutching his machine gun behind his neck like a balancing pole, ammunition belts snaking down from his shoulders.
The sand-charged wind blows his black-and-white checkered keffieh and cigarette smoke into his face as he squints at the imposing figure of a hijacked Korean supertanker anchored on the horizon.
"This one is bigger than Hobyo," he says proudly.
The Marshall Islands-flagged VLCC Samho Dream is a third of a kilometre long, one of three largest vessels ever hijacked by pirates, and carries an estimated 170 million dollars of Iraqi crude destined for the United States.
"Enough to buy the whole of Galkayo," Mohamed quips, in reference to the region's largest city, which straddles the border with the neighbouring semi-autonomous state of Puntland.
Fighting a losing battle against the sand that has already completely covered the old Italian port, Hobyo's scattering of rundown houses and shacks looks anything but the nerve centre of an activity threatening global shipping.
"We have no schools, no farming, no fishing. It's ground zero here," says chief local elder Abdullahi Ahmed Barre. "And our most pressing concern is the sand, the city is disappearing, we are being buried alive and can't resist."
Gathered in the gloom of the council building, the elders haven't seen a foreigner in years and the list of grievances is long.
"The nearest hospital is an eight-hour drive on a rough road", "The water is undrinkable, too salty", "When the tsunami struck, nobody helped", "This is one of the most peaceful parts of Somalia, why is there no assistance?"
Leaning discreetly against the door frame, Garfanji is listening keenly.
Hobyo pirates have collected millions of dollars in ransoms over the past two years. They even have currency checking and counting machines for the bags of air-dropped cash they receive.
Key players drive well-equipped Land Cruisers, have built new, slightly more stately houses and married more wives.
Yet Hobyo is anything but a booming town, so where does all the money go?
Residents say a significant portion of their income is lavished on post-ransom binges of khat, alcohol and prostitutes but the pirate leaders insist much of the cash is re-invested to expand.
"When we get more money, we recruit more," says Fathi Osman Kahir, a key Hobyo-based piracy "investor", who acts as a kind of pirate treasurer.
When a ship is hijacked, he pays for running costs such as increased onshore security, diesel for generators and basic supplies for captors and captives. When a ransom comes in, he takes the lion's share.
"There's up to 500 people working with us in Hobyo, that's 10 percent of the population and I'm just talking about the people on the ground... We have a hierarchy. What do you think we do? We pay wages too," he says.
A visit to Hobyo by the secretary of state for security of the fledgling local administration of Galmudug, Ismail Haji Noor, doesn't send the pirates scurrying into hiding.
"What am I going to do? Arrest them all? Even if I had the means as security minister to challenge them, it's pointless if I don't have something to offer, if nobody can provide an alternative," Noor says.
A former military man and a successful businessman who spent half of his life in Britain, Noor is lobbying donors in Nairobi for elusive development aid he hopes could make the pirates lay down their grapnels.
"There is no difference between life and death if you have nothing to eat... Of course, what we do is criminal, it's undeniable. We don't love what we are doing but there is no choice," says Kahir.
While Noor would like to see Hobyo's pirate army turned into a legitimate defence force and a coastguard protecting Somali waters from both residual piracy and illegal fishing, foreign assistance has not been forthcoming.
Now the biannual inter-monsoon season favourable to piracy is just around the corner and September may be too good to sit out even for the least committed of pirates.
On the beach of Hobyo, Mohamed Ali, a shark fisherman, says his catches are meagre, his fuel costs high and his boat inadequate.
"Being with the pirates has advantages and disadvantages," he admits. "I have not yet decided whether to join or not."

02 September 2010

Somali pirates ally with both sides in war

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HOBYO, Somalia, Sept. 2 (UPI) -- Local Somali leaders increasingly align with former pirate foes to fight a much graver common enemy -- the militant al-Shabaab Islamic movement, officials say.
But some pirates are also believed to side with the Shabaab, one of Africa's most fearsome radical Islamic groups, elders said.
"We just don't have the forces" to fight the Shabaab, Ismail Haji Noor, a government official in the ancient harbor city of Hobyo, in north-central Somalia's Mudug region, told The New York Times.
"Squished between the (pirates and the Shabaab), we have to become friends with the pirates," Noor said.
The movement, which has a full name of Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahedin, or the Movement of Warrior Youth, says it wages a holy war against "enemies of Islam" and declared its alliance with al-Qaida Feb. 1.
It is said to control most of Somalia's southern and central parts, including "a large swath" of the capital, Mogadishu.
Once the Shabaab take over an area, they impose a harsh, distorted form of Shariah, the sacred law of Islam, banning music, soccer, even bras. Offenders can get their hands chopped off or their heads bashed in with rocks, the Times said.
But while pirate gangs, which hijacked more than 30 ships off the Somali coast this year, now collaborate with Noor and other local officials to protect coastal villages from the Shabaab, other pirates recently split their ransoms with the Shabaab and the Hizbul Islam Islamic insurgent group that plans to merge with the Shabaab, elders told the Times.
This could be the beginning of "the West's worst Somali nightmare" -- piracy and Islamic radicalism combining forces, the Times said.
The Shabaab last month infiltrated a hotel in Mogadishu's government zone and gunned down more than 30 people, including four lawmakers.