Piracy has become big business
in northern Somalia. Local Somali warlords have figured out that foreign
warships are only a problem if they catch you actually attacking a merchant
ship. That is unlikely. So over a thousand Somali gunmen have organized themselves
into about a dozen different pirate groups. Most of them are going after the
heavy traffic going in and out of the Red Sea, through the Gulf of Aden. It
appears that some of the pirates, equipped with a satellite phone, join Somali fishing boats, and call in if they
spot a merchant ship travelling slow enough for the speedboats to catch, and
without a lot of lookouts. The pirates then speed to the scene, try to catch up
with and board the target ship. In the last week, two ships have been taken.
One was a Ukrainian ship carrying a cargo of over 2,000 tons of weapons (including
33 T-72 tanks) to Kenya. The pirates promptly demanded $35 million for the
ship, then lowered that to $20 million. As foreign warships closed in, the
pirates threatened to sink the Ukrainian ship if anyone tried to take their
28, 2008: After three weeks, pirates
released an Egyptian ship. The size of the ransom was not mentioned. On the
Ukrainian cargo ship Faina, seized on the 25th with its cargo of weapons, one
of the 21 crew died (from stress and high blood pressure).The Faina is being
held at the port of Hobyo, which is halfway down the east coast of Somalia. Hobyo
has long served as a base for pirates.
27, 2008: Russia has ordered a warship
in the Baltic to go to the Gulf of Aden and deal with the pirates there.
26, 2008: A Japanese ship was released
by the pirates, after being held for three months. A $2 million ransom was
25, 2008: The international community
has refused to send troops into Somalia, even to deal with the growing piracy
problem off the north coast. France is
alone in calling for international action against the pirates. That is, something
more than just naval and air patrols in the pirate infested waters of the Gulf
of Aden. The Somali town of Eyl, on the northeastern coast, has turned into a
headquarters for the pirates, secure in the belief that the foreigners will not
come ashore, except perhaps as a commando raid. Even captured pirates are not
punished. Today, a Danish warship released ten pirates they had captured, along
with two speedboats, weapons, on the 17th. Since the Danes did not catch the
pirates in the act of piracy, they had no evidence to prosecute them. So the Danes
destroyed the speed boats, kept the weapons and put the pirates ashore.
Ethiopia, the first cargo ship (carrying 17,000 sacks of sugar) docked at the
Islamic Union held port of Kismayu. The Islamic Courts need to get commerce
going in Kismayu to make the occupation of the town pay for itself.
24, 2008: A Somali gang in Ogaden (an
eastern Ethiopian province populated by Somalis) kidnapped two French foreign
aid workers, and took them into a hideout inside Somalia. Off the north coast,
warning shots were fired from a U.S. navy supply ship, to scare away to pirate
23, 2008: AU peacekeepers in Mogadishu
are fighting back against Islamic Union gunmen. This has caused thousands more
civilians to flee the fighting. The Islamic Union attacks on the peacekeepers
has backfired, because the AU troops had largely kept to themselves before they
were recently attacked.