As the monsoon season has come to an end, the rate of pirate attacks has increased markedly. This week, there were eight attacks, of which one resulted in the successful hijack of a fishing vessel. Last night,Somalia Reportreceived information that pirates had hijacked an oil tanker, MV Leila, however we are as of yet to receive confirmation of the incident.Somalia Reportwill follow developments closely and update when possible.
As theWajillowinds die down, pirates are descending upon Harardhere, Dhinooda and Eldhanane in preparation for launching a new wave of attacks. Dozens of investors, too, are positioning themselves to invest in the coming operations.
Local officials in Puntland toldSomalia Reportlast week that they are preparing for a pirate onslaught.
“We all know what happens. Local fishermen as well as pirates wait for the winds to subside in order to head offshore. There will be a resurgence in activity after the end of the month,” Ahmed Gurey, chairman of Bargaal toldSomalia Report.
While many more pirates may be heading out to sea, their success rate is declining as a result ofthe increased use of armed guards deployed on commercial vessels.An incident this week, in which Italian naval personnel on a commercial vessel shot and killed two Indian fishermen has provoked concern, however, about the rules for the use of force in the maritime domain.
Developments On Land
On February 15, forces loyal to Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa (ASWJ) arrested six pirates, accusing them of fuelling insecurity in Dhusomareb, the capital of Galgadud.
This is but the latest incident in a series of arrests over the past couple of weeks; ASWJ arrested a group in Guriel in early February, however the eight pirates (Flastin Ali, Ahmed Mire, Dahir Salad, Abdi Gelle, Nuune Abdulahi Ali, Ahmed Abdi, Ali Abdi and Ba’adle Shiekh Hussein) were subsequently offered amnesty on account of local clan-based resistance to the arrests.
Flastin, one of the arrested pirates toldSomalia Report,“We believe local elders arranged for our release, and we thank the administration for their decision. We did not come here to carry out kidnappings, but to visit our families here.”
The Deputy District Commissioner in Dhusomareb, Sheikh Abdullahi Abdinur Barre said, “They are a threat to us, they are importing immorality into our city and we have to stop them. We will continue to make such arrests.”
On Monday, Puntland officials reported that police had arrested 11 pirates in Gabac village, near Eyl, during counter-piracy operations in Nugaal. Police seized and burned one speedboat, and arrested the pirates after they tried to flee. The pirates were transferred to Garowe jail, where they are now awaiting trial. The pirates are part of the pirate group working under Garaad Mohammed, a well known pirate leader responsible for securing the $3.5 million ransom for the release the Algerian-flagged MV Blida.
Quest Pirates Sentenced
Two pirates, Mohamud Hirsi Issa Ali and Jilian Abdi Ali, involved in the S/V Quest hijacking and shootoutwere sentenced to life in prison for a second time on Tuesday. US District Judge Mark Davis, who sentenced them the first time, recused himself, following revelations that the US Navy had transferred the yacht to a marina part-owned by his brother. A second judge was assigned to the case and came to the same verdict.
Nine more pirates have pleaded guilty in the case, with three facing murder charges.
Somaliland Commandos Graduate
Somaliland can now count on a contingent of specially trained commandos to help in the fight against piracy. The team underwent a six month training course in Dararweine district, which focused on sea, air and land-based warfare techniques. Major Ahmed Tanzania, the armed forces training commander, said the team would be deployed to aid in the fight against piracy, counter-terrorism and secessionists.
Somaliland Busy Two Speedboats To Fight Pirates
Somaliland has purchased two speedboats, which have been transferred to the Minister for Fishing, Abdulahi Jama Geeljire. The boats will be used for counter-piracy operations, and to combat illegal fishing in Somaliland’s waters. The Minister stated that the boats had not been donated, but were purchased on the part of the government in a bid to improve their counter-piracy capacity. He added that Somaliland is looking to buy more boats over the course of the year.
The Albedois still being held in the Harardhere area, after the latest negotiations failed to materialise in a ransom. After a period of silence following reports that pirates were looting goods on the vessel, ransom negotiations have resumed.
Pirates had been demanding $4.7 million for the vessel, but sources now say that they have reduced their asking price to $3.7 million.
The four South Korean hostages who were separated from the hijacked ship Geminiand are being held by pirates in Harardhere, have received medical supplies, following reports that two fell ill.Somalia Reportsources have reported that the pirate investors brought a doctor from Galkayo to treat the hostages.
Since last month, two of the hostages have been suffering from stomach pains. Our source reveals that since they have begun receiving treatment and medicine in Harardhere, their health is improving.
Michael Scott Moore
Pirates holding the American journalist Michael Scott Moorein Ceel-Huur are still fearful of anAmerican rescue attempt in the vein of that conducted to free two Danish Demining Group (DDG)hostages last month. The pirates have brought more pirates in to guard their hostage, howeverSomalia Reportis yet to establish the exact number.
Negotiations for his release are ongoing. Following reports that Michael Scott Moore was being beaten, pirates have toldSomalia Reportthat negotiations are moving forward and his family have told them that the ransom would be paid soon.
Developments At Sea
A number of pirate action groups are believed to be active in the Bab al Mandeb, the North Arabian Sea, and off the coast of Oman,according to the NATO Security Centre.On February 16, the Centre issued the warning, stating that up to four pirate groups could be operational within the 100nm radius of 16 00 north 061 30 east.
Spanish Ship Joins ATALANTA
Spanish patrol vessel, the Infanta Elena has joined the EU’s Operation ATALANTA, sailing to the region on Wednesday. This is the vessel’s second mission, and its task is to aid in the defense of fishing vessels operating in the Indian Ocean, as well as to protect merchant ships sailing between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The vessel is loaded with a variety of combat weapons, including water cannons, machine guns and missile launchers. The patrol vessel accommodates 102 personnel, of which 11 are marines, tasked with security duties.
Italian Navy Shoots Two Indian Fishermen
On October 11, 2011, Italy announced that 10 military detachments from the Italian Navy, each comprising six men, would be deployed on board Italian-flagged vessels while traveling through the region. On Wednesday evening, one of these teams, deployed onboard the Enrico Lexie, was involved in the mistaken shooting of two Indian fishermen, raising concern over the rules for the use of force at sea.
The security team, made up of six Italian navy personnel, fired warning shots, but failed to take evasive manoeuvres, and then opened fire again, leaving two of the fishermen dead. The incident took place 14 nautical miles off Alappuzha, Kerala, which is widely used by Indian fishermen and is not considered part of the ‘high risk area’ for Somali pirates.
While the standards for regulation of private maritime security companies operating in counter piracy initiatives are yet to be finessed, the Italian naval personnel responsible for the allegedly unprovoked attack have their own rules and regulations to follow, and this mistake may prove costly for Indian-Italian relations.
The Italians are not the only nation that allows naval personnel to protect their vessels. Thailand has a 60-strong armed guard unit that travels in teams of four and offers protection to Thai vessels travelling in the pirate-prone sea lanes off Somalia. In October 2011, the Dutch Ministry of Defence announced that its navy was preparing to deploy 50 vessel protection detachments to protect vulnerable merchant shipping.
MV Free Goddess Arrives in Garacad
Pirates and local officials have confirmed that the Greek-owned, Liberian-flagged bulker, MV Free Goddess, arrived in Garacad last Friday, and subsequently began manouevering between the village of Dhinooda (70 kilometers southeast of Garacad) and Garacad. The vessel is the third ship being held off Dhinooda, according to the Chairman of Jariban District, Abdi Karim Kaytoun.
The group of pirates responsible for the hijack are from the Marjerteen clan (a sub-clan of the Darood). The vessel and its 21-strong Filipino crew was hijacked by Somali pirates while underway from Egypt to Singapore, laden with a cargo of steel cables.
Unsuccessful Attacks: 7
Over the course of the last week, there was one successful and seven unsuccessful pirate attacks on vessels in the region. Pirates targeted a bulk carrier, crude oil tanker, an offshore supply ship, a chemical products oil tanker, a container ship, a fishing vessel and an Indian dhow.
Somalia Reporthas also received information that an oil tanker, MV Leila, was hijacked yesterday afternoon, however we are yet to receive official confirmation. It is believed that the Harardhere-based Fathi pirate group might be behind the possible hijacking. (Update: As of 1200 GMT today,Somalia Reportreceived news that the vessel was heading towards the Yemeni coast, possibly to be used as a mothership. As of yet, there have been no communications from the allegedly hijacked vessel.In a puzzling development, the vessel’s communications equipment are reported to have been turned off).
On February 9, armed pirates on a small skiff attacked a Liberian-flagged German-owned container ship, MV Thalassa, while she was underway in position 1841 north-06127 east heading to Karachi from Jeddah. The pirates aborted the attack after the master of the ship altered course and increased the speed of the vessel. All 24 members of the crew are reported to be safe.
On February 10, pirates attempted to hijack a Qatar-flagged and -owned offshore supply ship, KMB No.1, while underway in position 2001 north-06039 east. Six pirates were sighted onboard an orange dhow, and three of these deployed into a skiff and followed the ship for approximately 30 minutes. Armed personnel aboard the supply ship managed to avert the attempted piracy attack.
On February 12, a dhow was reported hijacked while underway between Bosaso, Puntland and Berbera, Somaliland. The ill-fated dhow was hijacked just outside Bosaso port, and will likely be used as a pirate mother ship.
On February 13, armed pirates on a skiff attacked a Hong Kong-flagged, Canadian-owned container ship, MV Cosco Pride, while she was underway in position 13095 north- 048489 east. The Master made evasive manoeuvres, and evaded the attack. All crew members are safe, however the vessel suffered some damage.
Again, on February 13, pirates on three small skiffs were deployed from a white haul boat, and subsequently attempted to hijack a Liberian-flagged Greek owned bulk carrier MV Mourmoura. The vessel was underway in position 1457 north-06429 east. Three security guards aboard the bulker demonstrated their presence, and pirates aborted the attack. The vessel and her 19 Filipino crewmembers are reported to be safe.
In the third attack of the day, the fishing vessel FV Sinjin 35 was also attacked by pirates on a small skiff. The ship was in position 0752 south-06954 east, but sped away leaving the fishing gear behind.
At 1930 on February 14, 12 armed pirates operating from a 20-foot dhow attacked a fishing vessel operating approximately 35nm SW of Masirah Island, Oman. The brown pirate dhow is named Hander, and is still believed to be operating in the region. Pirates took the eight crew hostage and stole the vessel’s stores, including personal belongings, cash, diesel and food.
On February 15, seven heavily armed pirates on two skiffs attempted to hijack a Panama-flagged, Singapore-owned chemical oil products tanker, the MT Bow Sagami in position 1235 north-04220 east. The security team aboard the chemical oil products tanker fired warning shots, and pirates aborted the attack. The vessel and her crew, comprised of one Filipino and twenty Indians are now safe.
Hostages Held By Pirates
On Vessels: 233 (in addition to an unknown number from fishing vessel hijacked this week)
On Land: 26
- Somalia Report: Iranian Warship Thwarts Pirate Hijacking of Oil Tanker (gcaptain.com)
- Why does Somalia matter? – BBC News (bbc.co.uk)
- Somali Pirates Hijack UAE-Owned Vessel Loaded with Charcoal (gcaptain.com)
- Why does Somalia matter? (bbc.co.uk)
- Somali Police Arrest Pirates and Investors Bound for Italian Tanker (gcaptain.com)
- Pirates free crew of Italian ship, $600K ransom likely paid (wdsi.wordpress.com)
- Pirates free crew of Italian ship, $600K ransom likely paid (wdsi.wordpress.com)
- Three Pieces on Somalia’s Economy (sahelblog.wordpress.com)
- Seeking Somali pirates, from the air (bbc.co.uk)
- David Cameron: The whole world should help Somalia (independent.co.uk)