Dec 6, 2010

Pirates back again but with black faces

Pirates holding the crew of the Chinese fishing vessel Tian Yu No. 8, guarding the crew on the bow
piracy off the coast of Somalia is caused in part by illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste in Somali waters by foreign vessels that have, according to Somali fishermen, severely constrained the ability of locals to earn a living and forced many to turn to piracy instead

Other articles allege that many coastline villagers say given the choice between foreign-vessel collection of Somali sea life and the actions of the pirates, they support the pirates.[citation needed] Some pirates have suggested that, in the absence of an effective national coastguard following the outbreak of the Somali Civil War and the subsequent disintegration of the Armed Forces, they became pirates in order to protect their waters. This belief is also reflected in the names taken on by some of the pirate networks, such as the National Volunteer Coast Guard (NVCG).
The UK's Department for International Development (DFID) issued a report in 2005 stating that, between 2003–2004, Somalia lost about $100 million dollars in revenue due to illegal tuna and shrimp fishing in the country's exclusive economic zone by foreign trawlers.
Combined Task Force 150, a multinational coalition task force, took on the role of fighting Somali piracy by establishing a Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) within the Gulf of Aden.
The increasing threat posed by piracy has also caused concern in India since most of its shipping trade routes pass through the Gulf of Aden. The Indian Navy responded to these concerns by deploying a warship in the region on 23 October 2008.
In September 2008, Russia announced that it too would join international efforts to combat piracy.
Some reports have also accused certain government officials in Somalia of complicity with the pirates,with authorities from the Galmudug administration in the north-central Hobyo district reportedly attempting to use pirate gangs as a bulwark against Islamist insurgents from the nation's southern conflict zones.
However, according to UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon, both the former and current administrations of the autonomous Puntland region in northeastern Somalia appear to be more actively involved in combating piracy.
The latter measures include on-land raids on pirate hideouts,and the construction of a new naval base in conjunction with Saracen International, a UK-based security company.
By the first half of 2010, these increased policing efforts by Somali government authorities on land and international naval vessels at sea reportedly contributed to a drop in pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden from 86 a year prior to 33, forcing pirates to shift attention to other areas such as the Somali Basin and the wider Indian Ocean.

Why in Somalia

During the Siad Barre regime, Somalia received aid from Denmark, Great Britain, Iraq, Japan, Sweden, USSR and West Germany to develop its fishing industry. Cooperatives had fixed prices for their catch, which was often exported due to the low demand for seafood in Somalia. Aid money improved the ships and supported the construction of maintenance facilities.
After the fall of the Barre regime, the income from fishing decreased due to the Somali Civil War.
Also, there was no coast guard to protect against fishing trawlers from other countries illegally fishing and big companies dumping waste which killed fish in Somali waters. This led to the erosion of the fish stock. Local fishermen started to band together to protect their resources.
Due to the clan-based organization of Somali society, the lack of a central government, and the country's strategic location at the Horn of Africa, conditions were ripe for the growth of piracy in the early 1990s.
Precise data on the current economic situation in Somalia is scarce but with an estimated per capita GDP of $600 per year, it remains one of the world's poorest countries.
Millions of Somalis depend on food aid and in 2008, according to the World Bank, as much as 73% of the population lived on a daily income below $2.
These factors and the lucrative success of many hijacking operations have drawn a number of young men toward gangs of pirates, whose wealth and strength often make them part of the local social and economic elite. Abdi Farah Juha who lives in Garoowe (100 miles from the sea) told the BBC, "They have money; they have power and they are getting stronger by the day. They wed the most beautiful girls; they are building big houses; they have new cars; new guns."
Some pirates are former fishermen, whose livelihoods were hurt by foreign ships illegally fishing in Somali waters.
After seeing the profitability of piracy, since ransoms are usually paid, warlords began to facilitate pirate activities, splitting the profits with the pirates. In most of the hijackings, the bandits have not harmed their prisoners.
The Transitional Federal Government has made some efforts to combat piracy, occasionally allowing foreign naval vessels into Somali territorial waters.
However, more often than not, foreign naval vessels chasing pirates were forced to break off when the pirates entered Somali territorial waters.
The government of Puntland has made more progress in combating piracy, evident in recent interventions.

Current events

On 5 October 2008, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1838 calling on nations with vessels in the area to apply military force to repress the acts of piracy.
At the 101st council of the International Maritime Organization, India called for a United Nations peacekeeping force under unified command to tackle piracy off Somalia. (There has been a general and complete arms embargo against Somalia since 1992.)
On 21 November 2008, BBC News reported that the Indian Navy had received United Nations approval to enter Somali waters to combat piracy.
In November 2008, Somali pirates began hijacking ships well outside the Gulf of Aden, perhaps targeting ships headed for the port of Mombasa, Kenya.
 The frequency and sophistication of the attacks also increased around this time, as did the size of vessels being targeted. Large cargo ships, oil and chemical tankers on international voyages became the new targets of choice for the Somali hijackers. This is in stark contrast to the pirate attacks which were once frequent in the Strait of Malacca, another strategically important waterway for international trade, which were according to maritime security expert Catherine Zara Raymond, generally directed against "smaller, more vulnerable vessels carrying trade across the Straits or employed in the coastal trade on either side of the Straits."
On 8 April 2009, four Somali pirates seized the Maersk Alabama 240 nautical miles (440 km; 280 mi) southeast of the Somalia port city of Eyl.
The ship was carrying 17,000 metric tons of cargo, of which 5,000 metric tons were relief supplies bound for Somalia, Uganda, and Kenya.
On 12 April 2009, United States Navy SEAL snipers killed the three pirates that were holding Captain Richard Phillips hostage aboard a lifeboat from the Maersk Alabama after determining that Captain Phillips' life was in immediate danger.
A fourth pirate, Abdul Wali Muse, surrendered and was taken into custody. On May 18, a federal grand jury in New York returned a ten-count indictment against him.[43]
On 20 April 2009, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented on the capture and release of 7 Somali pirates by Dutch Naval forces who were on a NATO mission.
After an attack on the Handytankers Magic, a petroleum tanker, the Dutch frigate De Zeven Provinciën tracked the pirates back to a pirate "mother ship" and captured them.They confiscated the pirates weapons and freed 20 Yemeni fishermen who the pirates had kidnapped and who had been forced to sail the pirate "mother ship".
Since the Dutch Naval Forces were part of a NATO exercise, but not on an EU mission, they lacked legal jurisdiction to keep the pirates so they released them. Clinton stated that this action "sends the wrong signal" and that additional coordination was needed among nations.
On 23 April 2009, international donors pledged over $250 million for Somalia which include $134 million to increase the African Union peacekeeping mission from 4,350 troops to 8,000 troops and $34 million for Somali security forces.
Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon told delegates at a donors' conference sponsored by the U.N. that "Piracy is a symptom of anarchy and insecurity on the ground", and that "More security on the ground will make less piracy on the seas."
Somali President Sharif Ahmed pledged at the conference that he would fight piracy and to loud applause said that "It is our duty to pursue these criminals not only on the high seas, but also on terra firma,".
The Somali government has not gone after pirates because pirate leaders currently have more power than the government. It has been estimated by piracy experts that in 2008 the pirates gained about $80 million through ransom payments.
On 8 November 2009, Somali pirates threatened that a kidnapped British couple would be "punished" if a German warship did not release seven pirates.
Omer, one of the pirates holding the British couple, claims that the seven men are fishermen, but a European Union Naval Force spokesman says that they were captured as they fired AK-47 assault rifles at a French fishing vessel.
April 2010, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) alluded to possible covert and overt action against the pirates. CIA officials had been publicly warning of this potential threat for months. In a Harpers Magazine article, a CIA official said, "We need to deal with this problem from the beach side, in concert with the ocean side, but we don't have an embassy in Somalia and limited, ineffective intelligence operations. We need to work in Somalia and in Lebanon, where a lot of the ransom money has changed hands. But our operations in Lebanon are a joke, and we have no presence at all in Somalia."
On 11 May 2010, Somali pirates seized a Bulgarian-flagged ship in the Gulf of Aden. The Panega, with 15 Bulgarian crew members aboard, was en route from the Red Sea to India or Pakistan. This was the first such hijacking of a Bulgarian-flagged ship.
On 12 May 2010, Athens announced that Somali pirates have seized a Greek vessel in the Gulf of Aden with at least 24 people onboard, including two Greek citizens and some Filipinos. The vessel, sailing under the Liberian flag, was transporting iron from Ukraine to China.

Profile of new pirates
A collage of pirates armed with AKM assault rifles, RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launchers and semi-automatic pistols
Most pirates are 20–35 years old and come from the region of Puntland, in northeastern Somalia. The East African Seafarers' Association estimates that there are at least five pirate gangs and a total of 1,000 armed men.
According to a BBC report, the pirates can be divided into three main categories:
Local Somali fishermen, considered the brains of the pirates' operations due to their skill and knowledge of the sea. Most think that foreign boats have no rights to cruise next to the shore and destroy their boats.
Ex-militiamen who used to fight for the local clan warlords, or ex-military from the former Barre government used as the muscle.

Technical experts who operate equipment such as GPS devices
According to, there are four main groups operating off the Somali coast. The National Volunteer Coast Guard (NVCG), commanded by Garaad Mohamed, is said to specialize in intercepting small boats and fishing vessels around Kismayo on the southern coast. The Marka group, under the command of Yusuf Mohammed Siad Inda'ade, is made up of several scattered and less organized groups operating around the town of Marka. The third significant pirate group is composed of traditional Somali fishermen operating around Puntland and referred to as the Puntland Group. The last set are the Somali Marines, reputed to be the most powerful and sophisticated of the pirate groups with a military structure, a fleet admiral, admiral, vice-admiral and a head of financial operations.

Weaponry and funding

The pirates get most of their weapons from Yemen, but a significant amount come from Mogadishu, Somalia's capital. Weapons dealers in the capital receive a deposit from a hawala dealer on behalf of the pirates and the weapons are then driven to Puntland where the pirates pay the balance.
Various photographs of pirates in situ indicate that their weapons are predominantly AKMs, RPG-7's and semi-automatic pistols such as the TT-30.
Additionally, given the particular origin of their weaponry, they are likely to have hand grenades such as the RGD-5 or F1.
The funding of piracy operations is now structured in a stock exchange, with investors buying and selling shares in upcoming attacks in a bourse in Harardhere.
Pirates say ransom money is paid in large denomination US dollar bills. It is delivered to them in burlap sacks which are either dropped from helicopters or cased in waterproof suitcases loaded onto tiny skiffs. Ransom money has also been delivered to pirates via parachute, as happened in January 2009 when an orange container with $3 million cash inside it was dropped onto the deck of the supertanker MV Sirius Star to secure the release of ship and crew.
To authenticate the banknotes, pirates use currency-counting machines, the same technology used at foreign exchange bureaus worldwide. According to one pirate, these machines are, in turn, purchased from business connections in Dubai, Djibouti, and other areas.
Hostages seized by the pirates usually have to wait 45 days or more for the ships' owners to pay the ransom and secure their release.
Somali pirates allegedly get help from the Somali diaspora. Somali expatriates, including reputedly some among the 200,000 Somalis living in Canada, offer funds, equipment and information.

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