SUDAN WATCH: Three killed in pirates' shoot-out aboard Russian arms ship - UK to attack al-Qaeda pirates

Friday, October 03, 2008

Three killed in pirates' shoot-out aboard Russian arms ship - UK to attack al-Qaeda pirates

The pirates who seized a ship carrying military hardware off Somalia turned on each other yesterday as three were shot dead in a dispute over what to do with their hijacked cargo.

For a third day yesterday the pirates on the Ukrainian vessel - anchored a few miles offshore - remained cornered by several warships from a US-led task force patrolling off Somalia.

Source: 01 October 2008 Financial Times report by Barney Jopson in Nairobi and Robert Wright in London - Pirates in shoot-out aboard arms ship. Excerpts:
"We are covering 2.5m square miles of water. Policing all of it would take more ships than we could ever get," said Commodore Keith Winstanley, deputy commander of coalition naval forces in the Middle East. "We're not going to solve the problem. No naval force is going to solve it. The root cause of this problem rests ashore in Somalia."

Piracy was stamped out in 2006 by the Islamic Courts Union, an Islamist group that restored a semblance of order. The group was ousted by Ethiopian troops, with US backing, but the Islamists were not eliminated and, in recent months, have retaken some territory.

Possible links between pirates and the Islamists drove the United Nations' naval response to the hijacking of the Ukrainian ship.

Andrew Mwangura, of the East Africa Seafarers' Assistance Programme, which monitors piracy, said: "Some of the pirates are paranoid about the presence of the US navy. Among them there are moderates and radicals: some who want to unload the cargo and some who don't; some who want to abort the mission and some who don't."
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Related reports

Sudan Watch Thursday, October 02, 2008 - US warships surround Ukrainian ship hijacked nr Somalia: Cargo for Sudan - Moscow sends warship - Germany joins EU forces - Kenyan official arrested

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UK to attack al-Qaeda pirates

The Royal Navy is hoping to crack down on pirate activity off the Horn of Africa. Al-Qaeda is said to dominate the lucrative trade.

Source: Daily Telegraph report by Damien McElroy 06 December 2007 - UK to attack al-Qa'eda pirates. Copy:
Britain has launched a drive for an international accord granting the Royal Navy and Western warships rights to enter Somali territorial waters in pursuit of pirate gangs linked to al-Qa’eda.

Pirate activity has soared off the Horn of Africa this year with the emergence of highly sophisticated gangs that use fast patrol boats, launched from “mother ships” to board cargo vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

The lucrative multi-million-dollar kidnap and ransom trade, which is dominated by al-Qa’eda, according to terrorism experts, threatens to disrupt international shipping lanes used to carry cargo from the Far East to Europe.

A meeting in London of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the United Nations’ watchdog of the seas, is to consider a resolution today instructing Somalia’s interim government to drop its legal right to block foreign navies from entering its waters.

A declaration would pave the way for Royal Navy vessels to rescue ships held for ransom in Somali coves or pursue pirates involved in attacks on ships in international waters.

A spokesman for the regional naval command in Bahrain said that passage of the IMO resolution would be an important step to “help deter piracy off the coast of Somalia”.

There have been 26 attacks or attempted boardings by pirates so far this year, up from a handful in 2006. Somalia has been plagued by civil war. It has seen a succession of weak, temporary administrations run by warlords or hard-line Islamic factions sympathetic to al-Qa’eda, unrecognised by the international community and with little remit on the coastline.

Pirates used the haven provided by Somalia’s lack of leadership to defy 46 warships from 20 countries in the international coalition centred around America’s Bahrain-based 5th fleet.

“Piracy has become a lucrative business based on ransom demands and cargo theft inside Somali territory,” said Cdre Keith Winstanley, the deputy commander of the coalition. “It has not been possible to suppress it because vessels pirated, sometimes a long way off the coast, are held somewhere in the vicinity of the Somali coast.”

It is a murky situation and even the figure of 26 reported incidents is thought to vastly underestimate the extent of the problem.

While vast sums of money are involved - ransoms can exceed £500,000 — Cdre Winstanley said that official concern had been expressed over intelligence reports that little of the money filtered down to the Somali regions.

“Piracy and terrorism is a difficult picture to build,” he said. “The extent of money diverted to terrorism is not known, but I don’t see evidence that the money is going into houses, schools and jobs onshore.”
Complicating the picture for the navies involved is a human wave of refugees on the move out of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 200,000 have fled fighting in the last month, many of whom are ready to pay $150 (£75) to be smuggled across the Gulf of Aden.

“It’s very seasonal, depending on the trade winds, but right now conditions are very favourable,” said Peter Kessler, a spokesman for UNHCR.

“These vessels loaded with people cross the trade route but don’t even dock in the harbours. They unload the passengers at sea.”

The crowded waters are an ideal haven for al-Qa’eda operatives crossing between training camps on both sides of the Gulf.

“The scale of the threat has changed since the physical penetration of the region by al-Qa’eda,” said Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert at Nanyang Technology University in Singapore. “With large Somali communities in Europe, it is critically important that those on the move through this area are visible to Western intelligence.”

David Nordell, the chief executive of New Global Markets, a specialist consultancy on terrorist financing, said: “Terror in piracy is ultimately aimed at building up to offences like the next USS Cole [a suicide attack off Yemen in 2000] or hitting an oil tanker.”
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SNAPSHOT OF GOOGLE'S NEWSREEL
Friday 03 October 2008 13:30 GMT


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See Sudan Watch Update - Thursday, October 09, 2008 : MV Faina cargo was for Ethiopia? NATO agrees to join anti-piracy operations off coast of Somalia: seven of its frigates will arrive within two weeks

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