US warships surround Ukrainian ship hijacked nr Somalia: Cargo for Sudan - Moscow sends warship - Germany joins EU forces - Kenyan official arrested
Right now, several American warships surround the freighter. Moscow is sending a warship to protect the Russian hostages and Germany is to take part in an EU anti-piracy campaign. A Kenyan has been arrested in connection with the hijack.
Today's report by the BBC, copied here below, reveals that the Southern Sudanese are said to be seeking supplies of heavy weapons -- and -- "If these reports are true, they could change the regional military balance" says Helmoed Heitman of Jane's Defence Weekly.
Full story in the following reports. [Note, the report from PressTV Iran that says their correspondent, last Friday, quoted a number of Somali politicians as charging that the ship was originally taking the weapons to the pirates]
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From The Washington Post Saturday 27 September 2008 AP report by STEVE GUTTERMAN - Crew member says pirates want ransom:
MOSCOW - Pirates who seized a ship laden with tanks off the Horn of Africa were seeking ransom and keeping most of the 35 people aboard in a single stuffy room, a man identified as the captain's aide said in a report on a Russian news Web site Saturday.Associated Press writer Tom Maliti in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.
In a telephone conversation posted on the site Life.ru, the purported crew member said the ship, the Faina, had anchored close to shore near the Somalian town of Hobyo and that there were two other apparently hijacked ships nearby.
An international anti-piracy watchdog group said Saturday that armed pirates on Friday seized a Greek chemical tanker with 19 crew members in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia.
The tanker, carrying a cargo of refined petroleum from Europe to the Middle East, was ambushed, chased and fired upon, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Malaysia.
In the telephone conversation on Life.ru, the man issued what sounded like a coded call for help, repeating part of the Russian word for 'seals' twice.
The 530-foot cargo ship Faina was seized Thursday. Ukraine's defense chief said Friday that it was carrying 33 Russian-built T-72 tanks and a substantial quantity of ammunition and spare parts. Russia's navy said it dispatched a warship to the area, and U.S naval ships were monitoring the situation.
Nobody aboard the Faina was injured, but the captain, Vladimir Kolobkov, was suffering from heatstroke and his condition was "not so good," the man in the report said. He identified himself as Vladimir Nikolsky, the captain's senior assistant, and said the hijackers demanded that he speak only in English.
"They asking that we make contact with the owners about his money," Nikolsky said. Asked how much they were demanding, he said: "I'm not sure, approximately - I cannot say he exact price." He suggested the hijackers indicated that would be matter for negotiations.
"They would like to speak directly to our owner," he said later.
Ukrainian news agencies have identified the ship's operator as Tomex Team, a company based in the Black Sea port of Odessa. A person who answered the phone at the company's office on Saturday declined to comment and refused to give his name.
Kenyan Defense Department spokesman Bogita Ongeri said on Saturday that Kenyan authorities have had no contact with the pirates or received any demands for ransom.
Ongeri said that the Ukrainian vessel was seized in international waters in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. He said that the pirates hijacked the ship beyond 200 nautical miles away from the coast of the northeastern Somali region of Puntland. Two hundred nautical miles in maritime law mark the end of a country's territorial waters.
It was unclear exactly when the conversation with Nikolsky took place, and phone calls to Life.ru were not answered.
Speaking in imperfect English, Nikolsky said he had recently spoken to the captain of what he said was a U.S. Coast Guard ship, who asked about the situation aboard the Faina.
"I tell him that everything in normal condition," he said.
While Ukrainian officials had said there were 21 people aboard - 17 Ukrainian, three Russian and a Latvian - Nikolsky said there were 21 crew and a total of 35 people aboard. Life.ru showed images of Russian passports for both Nikolsky and the captain, Kolobkov.
"Everybody in normal condition. Not good, but normal," he said.
He said he was speaking from the bridge but that the rest of the crew members were all "collected in one room without free air."
At the beginning of the posted audio report, the reporter asks a person answering a call if she can speak to a Russian on board. After a few barked words in an unfamiliar language, the man identified as Nikolsky starts speaking.
He explains that he has been ordered to speak only English "so that they understand."
At the end, when the reporter asks whether he sees a way out, he replies: "You are so clever that you are understanding everything" and switches to Russian, saying "kotiki, kotiki, kotiki" - part of the word for "seals" - an apparent reference to the possibility of an operation by special amphibious forces to rescue the hostages.
Russian navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo told The Associated Press on Friday that the missile frigate Neustrashimy, or Intrepid, left the Baltic Sea port of Baltiisk a day before the hijacking to cooperate with other unspecified countries in anti-piracy efforts.
But he said the ship was then ordered directly to the Somalia coast after Thursday's attack.
It's precise mission was unclear. A spkesman for Russia's Baltic Fleet, Sergei Kuks, told the ITAR-Tass news agencuy that it was premature to say exactly what the Intrepid and its crew would do and whether they wold participate in an effort to free the hostages.
The hijacking of the Greek vessel brings the number of attacks off Somalia to 62 this year, or more than one every week. Of them, 26 ships were hijacked, and 15 remain in the hands of the pirates with 300 crew.
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From BBC News Thursday 02 October 2008 report by MARTIN PLAUT, Africa Analyst - Tanks 'were for Sudan arms race':
Military experts say the cargo of tanks captured by Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa was destined for South Sudan.- - -
They believe the shipment is an indication that an arms race between the government in Khartoum and South Sudan is under way.
Experts say the south may have 100 Russian-built tanks in its arsenal.
Both northern and southern Sudan are reported to be building up their forces ahead of the possible independence of the south in 2011.
The seizure of the Ukrainian vessel off the coast of Somalia has lifted the lid on what experts say is an arms build-up in Sudan.
Western sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the BBC that the tanks on board the ship were going to southern Sudan, despite denials from Kenya and from Ukraine.
The experts say that there has been more than one shipment of tanks - a previous delivery took place in November last year.
Helmoed Heitman, Africa correspondent for Jane's Defence Weekly, says he has reports that more than 100 T-72 and T-55 Russian tanks have been received by the southern Sudanese.
"If these reports are true, they could change the regional military balance," he said.
"Kenya could be seen as playing the same role as Cuba did during the Angolan civil war - when they armed the MPLA."
Tanks are notoriously difficult to operate and require frequent maintenance.
The Western sources who spoke to the BBC suggest their most likely use would be dug in along Sudan's north-south border, with the tanks using their guns to protect military installations.
From The Scotsman Thursday 02 October 2008 report by MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN - Sudan agrees US and Russia may use force against tank pirates:
SOMALIA will allow foreign powers to use force if necessary against pirates who are holding a ship loaded with tanks for $20 million (£11.3 million) ransom. This raises the stakes for bandits currently facing off against the United States, who will soon be joined by Russia on the high seas.- - -
Last week's hijacking of the Ukrainian ship MV Faina – carrying 33 Soviet-made T-72 tanks, rifles, and heavy weapons – was the highest profile act of piracy in the dangerous waters off Somalia this year. The ship is surrounded by several US warships and American helicopters are buzzing overhead.
Moscow has sent a warship to protect the few Russian hostages on board, but it will take a week for the ship to arrive off the coast of central Somalia, where the Faina has been anchored since Thursday. Most of the 20 crew are Ukrainian or Latvian; one Russian has died, apparently of illness.
"The international community has permission to fight with the pirates," Mohammed Jammer Ail, the Somali foreign ministry's acting permanent director, said yesterday.
He also said negotiations between the ship's Ukrainian owners and the pirates were taking place by telephone, but that "no other side is involved in negotiations".
Somalia's president, Abdullahi Yusuf, also urged foreign nations to help Somalis to fight piracy.
"The government has lost patience and now wants to fight pirates with the help of the international community," the president said yesterday in a radio address.
But there was no reaction yesterday from the estimated 30 hijackers on board the Faina to the prospect of facing two of the world's most powerful navies. Their spokesman did not answer his satellite phone.
A day earlier, the pirates denied reports that an argument over whether to surrender led to a shootout that killed three pirates. Instead, the spokesman said, they were enjoying a feast to end Ramadan.
The dangerous cargo on the Faina has drawn worldwide attention.
American military officials and diplomats say the weapons are destined for southern Sudan, but Kenyan officials insist the weapons are bound for their country.
Somali Pirates Tell Their Side: They Want Only Money
From The New York Times 30 September 2008 report by JEFFREY GETTLEMAN - Somali Pirates Tell Their Side: They Want Only Money:
NAIROBI, Kenya - The Somali pirates who hijacked a Ukrainian freighter loaded with tanks, artillery, grenade launchers and ammunition said in an interview on Tuesday that they had no idea the ship was carrying arms when they seized it on the high seas.Hat tip White African's Twitter
“We just saw a big ship,” the pirates’ spokesman, Sugule Ali, said in a telephone interview. “So we stopped it.”
The pirates quickly learned, though, that their booty was an estimated $30 million worth of heavy weaponry, heading for Kenya or Sudan, depending on whom you ask.
In a 45-minute interview, Mr. Sugule spoke on everything from what the pirates wanted (“just money”) to why they were doing this (“to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters”) to what they had to eat on board (rice, meat, bread, spaghetti, “you know, normal human-being food”).
He said that so far, in the eyes of the world, the pirates had been misunderstood. “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits,” he said. “We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas. We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.”
The pirates who answered the phone call on Tuesday morning said they were speaking by satellite phone from the bridge of the Faina, the Ukrainian cargo ship that was hijacked about 200 miles off the coast of Somalia on Thursday. Several pirates talked but said that only Mr. Sugule was authorized to be quoted. Mr. Sugule acknowledged that they were now surrounded by American warships, but he did not sound afraid. “You only die once,” Mr. Sugule said.
He said that all was peaceful on the ship, despite unconfirmed reports from maritime organizations in Kenya that three pirates were killed in a shootout among themselves on Sunday or Monday night.
He insisted that the pirates were not interested in the weapons and had no plans to sell them to Islamist insurgents battling Somalia’s weak transitional government. “Somalia has suffered from many years of destruction because of all these weapons,” he said. “We don’t want that suffering and chaos to continue. We are not going to offload the weapons. We just want the money.”
He said the pirates were asking for $20 million in cash; “we don’t use any other system than cash.” But he added that they were willing to bargain. “That’s deal-making,” he explained.
Piracy in Somalia is a highly organized, lucrative, ransom-driven business. Just this year, pirates hijacked more than 25 ships, and in many cases, they were paid million-dollar ransoms to release them. The juicy payoffs have attracted gunmen from across Somalia, and the pirates are thought to number in the thousands.
The piracy industry started about 10 to 15 years ago, Somali officials said, as a response to illegal fishing. Somalia’s central government imploded in 1991, casting the country into chaos. With no patrols along the shoreline, Somalia’s tuna-rich waters were soon plundered by commercial fishing fleets from around the world. Somali fishermen armed themselves and turned into vigilantes by confronting illegal fishing boats and demanding that they pay a tax.
“From there, they got greedy,” said Mohamed Osman Aden, a Somali diplomat in Kenya. “They starting attacking everyone.”
By the early 2000s, many of the fishermen had traded in their nets for machine guns and were hijacking any vessel they could catch: sailboat, oil tanker, United Nations-chartered food ship.
“It’s true that the pirates started to defend the fishing business,” Mr. Mohamed said. “And illegal fishing is a real problem for us. But this does not justify these boys to now act like guardians. They are criminals. The world must help us crack down on them.”
The United States and several European countries, in particular France, have been talking about ways to patrol the waters together. The United Nations is even considering something like a maritime peacekeeping force. Because of all the hijackings, the waters off Somalia’s coast are considered the most dangerous shipping lanes in the world.
On Tuesday, several American warships — around five, according to one Western diplomat — had the hijacked freighter cornered along the craggy Somali coastline. The American ships allowed the pirates to bring food and water on board, but not to take weapons off. A Russian frigate is also on its way to the area.
Lt. Nathan Christensen, a Navy spokesman, said on Tuesday that he had heard the unconfirmed reports about the pirate-on-pirate shootout, but that the Navy had no more information. “To be honest, we’re not seeing a whole lot of activity” on the ship, he said.
In Washington, Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, declined to discuss any possible American military operations to capture the ship.
“Our concern is right now making sure that there’s a peaceful resolution to this, that this cargo does not end up in the hands of anyone who would use it in a way that would be destabilizing to the region,” Mr. Morrell told reporters at the Pentagon. He said the United States government was not involved in any negotiations with the pirates. He also said he had no information about reports that the pirates had exchanged gunfire among themselves.
Kenyan officials continued to maintain that the weapons aboard were part of a legitimate arms deal for the Kenyan military, even though several Western diplomats, Somali officials and the pirates themselves said the arms were part of a secret deal to funnel weapons to southern Sudan.
Somali officials are urging the Western navies to storm the ship and arrest the pirates because they say that paying ransoms only fuels the problem. Western diplomats, however, have said that such a commando operation would be very difficult because the ship is full of explosives and the pirates could use the 20 crew members as human shields.
Mr. Sugule said his men were treating the crew members well. (The pirates would not let the crew members speak on the phone, saying it was against their rules.) “Killing is not in our plans,” he said. “We only want money so we can protect ourselves from hunger.”
When asked why the pirates needed $20 million to protect themselves from hunger, Mr. Sugule laughed and said, “Because we have a lot of men.”
Mohammed Ibrahim contributed reporting from Mogadishu, Somalia, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.
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From China Daily News (Agencies) 28 September 2008 - US destroyer watching hijacked ship off Somalia:
MOGADISHU, Somalia - A US destroyer off the coast of Somalia closed in Saturday on a hijacked Ukrainian ship loaded with tanks and ammunition, watching it to ensure the pirates who seized it do not try to remove any cargo or crew.- - -
As Russian and American ships pursued the hijackers of the Ukrainian-operated vessel, pirates seized another ship off Somalia's coast, an international anti-piracy group said.
Germany to take part in EU anti-piracy campaign
From Bahrain News Agency 01 October 2008 (Paris):
Germany intends to send a naval force to Somalia within a short period to take part along with the European forces in a campaign against piracy, announced German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung.- - -
Helicopters to Darfur -- if Ukrainian politics or pirates don't stop them
From UN Dispatch 30 September 2008 blogpost by JOHN BOONSTRA - Helicopters to Darfur -- if Ukrainian politics or pirates don't stop them:
Neil MacFarquhar of The New York Times reports that some tangible good news for Darfur may have come out of the UN General Assembly.- - -
United Nations officials emerged with a commitment for 18 helicopters for the peacekeeping force there from Ukraine. There were so many conditions attached by Ukraine, however, including using private contractors and getting approval from the embattled Parliament, that it remained unclear whether a solution for the long quest for 24 helicopters had really been found.
Given the tumultuous state of Ukrainian politics right now, this latter requirement seems a daunting obstacle. Plus, Ukraine's last shipment of military vehicles to Sudan (if Kiev even knew that was their likely eventual destination) probably would have violated an arms embargo had it not first been seized by pirates. There's certainly no embargo on equipping a UN peacekeeping mission, though, nor is there any doubt how desperately the blue helmets in Darfur need the helicopters, so let's hope that the political hurdles are cleared and that the choppers don't run into any sort of "air pirates" en route.
HAAAAAAGGGGH ME ‘EARTIES
Here is a copy of a blogpost by funny ha ha foreign correspondent ROB CRILLY - 26 September 2008 - entitled Pirates of the Indian Ocean:
I thought it might be instructive for any students of journalism who read this blog to detail my typical interaction with one of the foreign desks for which I work.Heh.
FD: Good morning, Foreign.
ME: Morning. You are probably no doubt sick of pirates…
ME: …but I wondered whether you might have noticed the Ukrainian vessel…
ME: that has been hijacked with a load of tanks on board and would like a piece today.
FD: HAAAAAAGGGGH ME ‘EARTIES
ME: I could wrap in the latest fighting, the fate of the suspected pirates held in France and the fact that the Canadian frigate is staying on to escort food supplies into Mogadishu.
FD: Yes please, give us as much as you can. Bye.
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From ROB CRILLY 29 September 2008: Kenya, The Pirates and those Rather Embarrassing Tanks
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From ROB CRILLY 30 September 2008: It's All Our Fault
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Kenyan official arrested in connection with hijacked ship
Kenyan police were still holding Thursday a maritime official arrested Wednesday for allegedly giving sensitive news to the press about the hijacked arms freighter off the Somalia coast.
From www.rfi.fr Thursday 02 October 2008:
Mombasa police arrested seafears' rights campaigner Andrew Mwangura on Thursday after he told the international media that arms on the hijacked ship Faina might be smuggled to Sudan via Kenya.From en.afrik.com Thursday 02 October 2008:
Andrew Mwangura, head of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, was arrested and detained by police for being a source of ’sensitive information’ on the hijacked cargo ship.- - -
Mwangura has kept the press updated on the freighter-hijack drama, to the chagrin of the police who felt he was revealing too much.
Coastal province police chief Kingori Mwangi says police detained seafaring expert Andrew Mwangura on Wednesday night, but declined to specify the law he may have broken.
The freighter, headed for the Kenyan port of Mombasa, and whose cargo was military hardware, was hijacked by Somali pirates few days ago off the Somali coast.
The pirates are demanded a hefty ransome to release the crew of the cargo ship which originated from Ukraine.
The vessel was ferrying armaments which included tanks and anti-aircraft guns among other weapons, to Mombasa.
A row has broken between Kenyan authorities and the United States Navy over the destintion of the weapons.
The US Navy sources say the weapons were destined for the semi- autonomous Southern Sudan, while Kenyan authorities insist they were to be used by the Kenyan military.
By Thursday, the destination of the hardware remained a mystery as the Government Spokesman, Alfred Mutua, appeared to be awaiting the final word from higher authorities.
The situation has put Kenya in an embarrassing situation, because if it’s true they were destined for Southern Sudan then Kenya would be violating the UN arms embargo it slapped on Sudan becauseof the conflict in Darfur in western parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the international community is stepping up efforts to rescue the freighter crew and arrest and bring to justice the hijackers.
Reports indicate that a number of battle ships are headed for th Somali waters in a bid to rescue the captured ship crew.
Kenyan authorities have remained tight-lipped, preferring not to talk the matter that has taken an international dimension.
From ROB CRILLY Thursday 02 October 2008 Shooting the Messenger Again - see photo of Andrew Mwangura, piracy expert, in Mombasa - excerpt:
The Kenyan government has already slagged off journalists for reporting on piracy, the UN’s special representative has accused us of passing on pirate propaganda, and now it’s my old pal, Andrew Mwangura, who is getting it in the neck. For the past decade or so he has been monitoring piracy from the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, making himself a key expert on the phenomenon. Lost your oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden? Andrew is the man to track it down using his network of pirate contacts.- - -
My phone started beeping late last night with news of his arrest. It seems the Kenyan government is not very happy that he was telling journalists the shipment of 33 T-72 tanks was on its way to South Sudan. So they arrested him on suspicion of making inflammatory remarks. He is still in custody, as I write, and has not yet been charged.
From PressTV Iran (HN/RA) Thursday, 02 October 2008 19:19:45 GMT - 'Biggest suspect' in ship piracy arrested - excerpt:
Our correspondent, last Friday, quoted a number of Somali politicians as charging that the ship was originally taking the weapons to the pirates.- - -
SNAPSHOT OF GOOGLE'S NEWSREEL Thursday 02 October 2008 21:05 GMT
EU to take military action against pirates
Radio Netherlands, Netherlands - 1 hour ago
The European Union is to set up a military operation to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia. At least eight countries have agreed to participate, ...
Somali insurgents call on pirates to destroy hijacked Ukrainian ship
Xinhua, China - 2 hours ago
MOGADISHU, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- A Somali insurgent group Thursday urged the pirates holding a Ukrainian ship carrying military hardware to destroy the ship ...
Pirates refusing to back down
The Press Association - 2 hours ago
Pirates holding a hijacked arms ship have insisted they will not release it for less than
20 million dollars (£10m) and warned they would repel any ...
Pirates, warships continue tense standoff near Somali coast
Christian Science Monitor, MA - 5 hours ago
By Jonathan Adams A battle of nerves continued off Somalia's coast today, as the US and Russia turned up the heat on a group of vastly outgunned Somali ...
America, Russia and terrorists of the seas
International Herald Tribune, France - 5 hours ago
There is nothing romantic about the pirates who have been hijacking ships off the coast of Somalia. Theirs is a vicious business that endangers maritime ...
Somali pirates stick to $20 million ransom demand
The Associated Press - 6 hours ago
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — A Somali pirate spokesman says his group will not release a hijacked Ukrainian cargo ship loaded with arms for less than $20 ...
'The cargo is ours' govt insists
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, Kenya - 6 hours ago
The Government is actively monitoring the situation of the hijacked ship MV Faina containing cargo for the Kenyan Military. Government spokesman Dr Alfred ...
EU vows action against pirates, Kenya arrests source
Reuters South Africa, South Africa - 6 hours ago
By Celestine Achieng MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - The EU vowed quick military action against Somali pirates on Thursday, and Kenya arrested a maritime ...
Report: Somali pirates rake in up to $30M in 2008
The Associated Press - 8 hours ago
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Pirates off Somalia's lawless coast have raked in up to $30 million in ransoms this year alone, a London-based think tank reported ...
Pirates drop ransom to $5 million as talks heat up
Toronto Star, Canada - 11 hours ago
NAIROBI, Kenya–Negotiations over the arms-laden freighter hijacked by Somali pirates intensified yesterday, and several people close to the talks said the ...
Somalia accepts international help against pirates
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom - 11 hours ago
The Russian and US navies have been given permission by Somalia to use force against the pirates who have hijacked a ship carrying 33 tanks and other ...
EU force to fight Somali pirates
BBC News, UK - 11 hours ago
The European Union has agreed to establish an anti-piracy security operation off the coast of Somalia. French Defence Minister Herve Morin said at least ...
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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