Somalia: Fighting Back


April 30, 2009: The April 12th killing of three pirates by U.S. Navy SEAL snipers, and the increasing aggressiveness of the international anti-piracy patrol, and local groups, has caused the pirates to be more careful and cooperate with each other more. The pirates are increasingly getting arrested, and failing to take ships.  The anti-piracy patrol is bringing in more maritime patrol aircraft, in order to track pirate mother ships that are going far out (over 1000 kilometers off the coast) to threaten many more commercial ships. So far this year, pirates have seized 25 ships, and the increased activity has generated more resistance. The pirates have plundered local fishermen, as well as Yemeni ships across the Gulf of Aden. Since the pirates are a collection of smaller gangs, not just one huge pirate organization, other Somali groups, and Yemeni security forces, are strong enough to  fight back. Not restrained by the political correctness of the foreign anti-piracy patrol, the locals can shoot to kill, and shut down pirates they fight, not just play "catch and release."

Recent elections in Puntland brought in a new government that is making a serious effort to halt piracy. But it may not be enough. The newly elected president has enlisted religious leaders to preach against the sinful aspects of piracy (more prostitution and alcohol). The clerics also point out that piracy is forbidden by the Koran, and so is using clan loyalty to justify protecting piracy operations. This has led to coastal fishermen forming vigilante groups, which have captured several dozen pirates. Previously, the pirates had taken boats from the local fishermen, to support piracy operations. To the west of Puntland, Somaliland has no pirates, because the local government and clans have forbidden such activities and backed that up with the threat of force.  

Foreign donors have agreed to give the new transitional government several hundred million dollars for reconstruction. This is meant to purchase some peace, and less piracy.

Al Shabaab is shutting down radio stations that disagree with it, and arresting reporters who it deems hostile.

April 29, 2009: Al Shabaab forced a smaller group to free two foreign medical personnel that had been kidnapped nine days ago and held for ransom (which was not paid). Local clan elders had intervened to get the aid workers freed, pointing out there would be even less medical care available if the two were held until a ransom was paid.

April 28, 2009: A Russian warship arrested 29 pirates who had, the day before, attempted to seize a Russian tanker.

April 27, 2009: Three days of fighting in Mogadishu left 12 dead and 30 wounded.

April 26, 2009:  Off the Yemen coast, the Yemeni navy and coast guard fought with pirates who seized an empty Yemeni tanker earlier in the day. Two pirates were killed and three wounded and the tankers was recaptured. The Yemeni navy fought off pirates who had seized several other Yemeni ships. Across the Gulf of Aden, a Yemeni tanker, and its cargo of 2,000 tons of diesel, were freed, after 16 weeks of captivity, for an undisclosed ransom.  Off the east coast of Somalia, a Spanish warship captured nine pirates who had, the day before, attempted to capture a cruise ship. Alas, the Spanish lacked sufficient evidence to hold the pirates and let them go. But police from the nearby Seychelles Islands, alarmed at what increased pirate activity could do to their economy, arrested those pirates and will try them for violating local laws.

April 25, 2009: Somali pirates seized a 31,000 ton German grain ship in the Gulf of Aden, while a Greek ship was freed after a $1.9 million ransom was paid. Meanwhile, 800 kilometers east of the coast, pirates tried to board a cruise ship (with 1500 passengers and crew aboard). Passengers spotted the pirates first, at dusk, and threw deck furniture overboard to defeat that boarding attempt. A few minutes later, a team of armed Israeli security personnel showed up at the railing and fired warning shots, which caused the pirates to give up. The six frustrated pirates emptied their AK-47 magazines at the ship, shattering windows and leaving dozens of bullet holes in the hull and superstructure. Later, the pirates sought to find the ship at night, but the captain ordered the ship to go dark (no lights visible). The pirates apparently called their boss on shore, and the ship then received a suspicious call from "a nearby ship" (that would not identify itself) asking for GPS coordinates. The captain, suspecting that this was a pirate ploy, just hung up.

April 24, 2009: Al Shabaab fighters fired mortar shells at the parliament compound in Mogadishu, and killed eight nearby civilians. Al Shabaab also wants the AU (African Union) peacekeepers to leave, which resonates with most Somalis, who don't like foreigners. Al Shabaab followed up on this by firing at two peacekeeper compounds. The peacekeepers are standing fast, believing that the many more moderate Islamic groups that now belong to the transitional government, can defeat al Shabaab.




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