Sunday, July 06, 2008


Somalia: Pirates in Total Defiance of the UN, Are they funding the Al-Shabaab terror group, Are they actually Al-Shabaab. Somalia is not only one of the most dangerous countries in the world due to its long running civil war spanning decades. But to add to this, the waters off the coast of Somalia have become the most treacherous in the world, swarming with well armed pirates searching for prey to hold to ransom. It is barely two weeks after the United Nations Security Council members unanimously adopted a resolution to combat the attacks and hijacking along the coastlines of Somalia, pirates have vowed to shoot down the resolution. The gangs have said that due to the fact that Somalia is not a member of the Security Council, it would be wrong for the country to agree to such a resolution which the pirates say is a clear breach of the sovereignty of the Horn of Africa country. The gangs mainly have their main bases in the northeastern regions of Somalia, known as Puntland. For sure, Somali pirates are not a monolithic group, and their relationships to Somalia’s complex field of aspiring rulers — the Baidoa-based transitional government, Ethiopia and the Al Shabaab Islamic group — are complicated. Indeed, some of the Somali Marines that France arrested are related by blood to Somali president Yusuf. Others backed the now-deposed Islamic Courts regime that forms the core of Al Shabaab.
An Islamist insurgency in Somalia has been mounting almost daily attacks on the weak government, which is backed by the United States, because Washington believes the Islamists are associated with al-Qaeda (Al-Shabaab). The UN says almost two million Somalis desperately need assistance. A small contingent of African Union troops is in Mogadishu but has done little to quell the violence. The talks are being boycotted by the hard-line al-Shabaab militia, blamed for many of the attacks on government troops and their Ethiopian supporters. The pirates have vowed to resist any move by any Security Council member to invade Somalia, saying such a move would be tantamount to breaching the sovereignty of the conflict-ridden nation. It is however interesting that piracy along the Somali coast acts as a source of economic upkeep catering for a large population of people mainly the jobless residents. The militias who are a result of lawlessness and unemployment have vested their energies in hijacking ships and vessels in the Indian Ocean waters for huge ransoms.

Helicopter-borne French troops swooped in on Somali pirates in APRIL/08 after they freed 30 hostages from a yacht, seizing six of the hijackers and recovering sacks of money -- apparently ransom paid by the ship's owners. The pirates had boarded the 288-foot French luxury yacht, capturing its mostly French crew off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden. Pirates seized more than two dozen vessels off the Somali coast last year. Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin, chief of staff of France's armed forces, said the pirates released the hostages after negotiating with the ship's owner. That phase of the operation was calm, with no weapons fired, he said. The hostages were brought to safety and the pirates went ashore. After the pirates were on Somali territory, a French attack helicopter chased a vehicle carrying some of them, firing to destroy its engine, the general said.

As many as three pirate gangs have been operating off the coast, and have attacked ships as far as 400 kilometers out to sea. So far this year, over 30 ships have been attacked. Unlike pirates in other parts of the world, who just rob the crew and escape with whatever they can carry, the Somali pirates capture ships and hold them for ransom (to support terrorism). The U.S., Germany and France already have warships north of Somalia, guarding the Djibouti coast and the Gulf of Aden. So far, no nation has offered to go after the Somali pirates. Meanwhile, merchant shipping has been warned to stay at least 400 kilometers from the Somali coast. According to the Netherlands defense ministry, Somali pirates typically try to capture ships to demand ransom money. There is a local coast guard, particularly in the Somali regions of Somaliland and Puntland, but this a "very limited" in size and capability, the ministry says. The 3,025-km. long coastline of Somalia (classified as the most dangerous territory in the world because of its lawlessness, widespread civil war and total anarchy, especially in and around the capital Mogadishu) hosts at least four distinct groups of pirates, says the ministry. These are organized according to tribal and clan backgrounds and are led by war lords, corrupt business men and even local authorities, says the ministry. Pirate groups are well organized and led from headquarters ashore. To be able to operate far out at sea they increasingly employ mother ships from which they launch small interceptor craft to attack merchant or fishing vessels. Typical pirate equipment includes communications (radios, satellite phone), radar, assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.


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