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Piracy

Is Africa facing a new wave of piracy?

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The recent hijacking of a ship by Somali pirates was the first such incident off the Horn of Africa since 2012, and more ships are being targeted off West Africa. But why are attacks increasing and how should the international community respond?

The latest State of Maritime Piracy report by the watchdog Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP) warns against security complacency in the shipping industry, particularly around the Horn of Africa. It appears the industry has gone from a state of heightened security awareness to taking its foot off the pedal.

After five years without any hijackings, the Comoros-flagged vessel Aris 13 was seized in March off the coast of Somalia. Pirates freed the oil tanker and its Sri Lankan crew three days later without ransom. But within weeks, there had been more incidents.

On the other side of the continent, piracy has not declined even though its form has changed. In its 2015 report, the OBP noted that attacks were on the rise off the West African coast.

One out of every five pirate attacks takes place there, making it the most dangerous region for seafarers.

Pirates used to seize oil tankers for their cargo but falling oil prices made this less lucrative, so there was a shift to kidnapping for ransom.

Foreign seafarers were the obvious targets, as the pirates can make higher ransom demands for them. These attacks were also reported to be more violent. That trend appears to have continued. West African governments have poor surveillance systems, which criminals can exploit.

At its peak – between 2010 and 2011 – piracy off the Horn of Africa cost the shipping industry up to $7bn (£5.42bn) annually. This prompted an international response led by the tripartite coalition of Nato, the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) and the US Combined Maritime Forces.

The use of private security, which was once frowned upon, became common practice.

The associated costs and the overall success must have fed the perception that the piracy had been solved.

In November 2016, Japan scaled down its counter-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. Weeks later, Nato ended its operation Ocean Shield, which operated around the same area, hailing it as one of the organisation’s most successful ever missions, one which had achieved its objectives.

However, the pirates never really went away. They just could not strike because of the armed presence in their seas.

It’s a point that the former Operation Commander for EU NAVFOR Maj Gen Martin Smith explained to me more than a year ago.

“We’ve taken away the opportunity for pirates to go to sea… but we’re very conscious that the capability required is fairly basic,” he said.

“Secondly we are aware that the intent still exists. The pirate networks still exist, they’re just doing other things and we believe that if we gave them back the opportunity they would go back to piracy.”

Now it appears that that is exactly what has happened, as some of the anti-piracy units have completed their mission and have headed home.

This is coupled with the issue of illegal fishing by foreign vessels in the area.

One of the pirates who hijacked the Aris 13 told the BBC Somali Service that the foreign ships are not just depleting fish reserves but are also attacking local fishing boats.

“We were after a particular ship that destroyed some of our equipment, when we came across this one, about eight miles from the coast,” he claimed. “It came across initially as a fishing vessel, and later on, when we went inside, we discovered that it [was] a cargo ship, transporting oil. We had to hold it, because we have nothing to lose anyway.”

While these claims cannot be independently verified, it is true that vessels from elsewhere in the world come to fish illegally in the waters off the Horn of Africa.

The Stop Illegal Fishing campaign highlights a global enforcement imbalance as one of the key reasons for the trend.

As it says: “Effective controls in other regions force illegal operators to seek alternative fishing areas where the risk of being caught is lower and the sanctions if caught are less severe, such as the [Western Indian Ocean].”

The mandates of the international naval patrols are limited to counter-piracy operations, rather than maritime policing.

The problems both on the eastern and western coasts of Africa involve the absence, or poor implementation, of regional maritime strategies. Ninety per cent of Africa’s imports and exports are conducted by sea.

Its waters also include key global shipping lanes, such as the Gulf of Aden, so securing these channels would be of great value to the continent and its partners, who both need to show the will to see maritime security improved.

Piracy

UN Security Council asks for comprehensive response to piracy off Somali coast

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UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) — The Security Council Tuesday adopted a resolution to condemn the acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia and to call for a comprehensive response to prevent and suppress such acts and tackle their underlying causes.

Resolution 2383 underlines the primary responsibility of the Somali authorities in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea off the Somali coast.

It urges the Somali authorities to continue their work of passing a comprehensive set of anti-piracy and maritime laws and establishing security forces with clear roles and jurisdictions to enforce these laws.

The resolution asks Somalia to continue to develop the capacity of its courts to investigate and prosecute persons responsible for acts of piracy and armed robbery.

It requests states to work with relevant international organizations to adopt legislation to facilitate the prosecution of suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia.

It calls on the Somali authorities to have mechanisms in place to safely return effects seized by pirates.

It also appeals to the Somali authorities to make all efforts to bring to justice those who are using Somali territory to plan, facilitate, or undertake criminal acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea, and calls on UN member states to assist Somalia to strengthen maritime capacity at the request of the country.

The resolution calls on states to cooperate on the issue of hostage taking, and the prosecution of suspected pirates for taking hostages. It calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all seafarers held hostage by Somali pirates, and further calls on all relevant stakeholders to redouble their efforts to secure their safe and immediate release.

The resolution urges all member states to criminalize piracy under their domestic law and to consider the prosecution of suspected pirates and imprisonment of those convicted pirates apprehended off the coast of Somalia as well as their facilitators and financiers ashore, in line with applicable international law.

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Piracy

Pirates of the caliphate: who is the Somali kingpin accused of aiding Alshabaab?

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A feared Somali pirate kingpin is being investigated by the United Nations over claims that he has aided fighters from the Al-Qaeda-aligned militant group Al-Shabab.

A top United Nations official confirmed to Newsweek that Mohamed Garfanji Ali Dulai has provided logistical support to the Islamist fighters, who have been waging a bloody insurgency against the Somali state since 2006.

“We believe he has been involved in the moving and provision of boats and logistical support to move Al-Shabab fighters into the Galgala mountains,” said Alan Cole, head of the U.N.’s Maritime Crime Programme.
A former senior U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak about the investigation, was more specific, telling Newsweek that the probe into Garfanji centers on “Djiboutian allegations that he received arms from Eritrea and channeled them” to Al-Shabab.

CNN, citing U.S. officials, was the first to report the existence of the investigation, which it said focused on two ringleaders, Garfanji and the other unidentified. The investigation also focuses on their alleged support for the affiliate of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Somalia.

The U.S. Department of Justice said in an email statement to Newsweek : “As a general policy, the department will neither confirm nor deny the existence of an ongoing investigation.”

Somali pirates have taken dozens of hostages and plundered millions of dollars from companies and private individuals over the past decade, as lawlessness in Somalia has enabled vast criminal enterprises to operate with relative impunity in the seas off the Somali coast. News of the U.N. investigation now uncovers a potential nexus between piracy and extremist activity in Africa.

So who is this pirate kingpin and why is he now suspected of working with extremist groups responsible for some of the worst massacres in modern East African history?

Major Investor

As well as his alleged ties to Al Shabab, a U.N official said that Garfanji had links to Mohamed “Big Mouth” Abdi Hassan—known as Afweyne—a key player in the Hobyo-Haradhere Piracy Network, based out of the Somali fishing village of Haradhere.

Afweyne was lured to Belgium on the promise of appearing in a documentary in 2013 and then was immediately arrested by Belgian police for his role in the hijacking of Belgian vessel the MV Pompei in 2009.
American-German journalist Michael Scott Moore—whose case Garfanji is suspected of playing an integral role—said that Garfanji and Afweyne were on a similar level in the Somali pirate hierarchy.

Moore was kidnapped in Somalia in 2012 as he researched a book, now titled ‘The Desert & The Sea,’ due to be released in 2018. He spent two-and-a-half years in captivity.

“Garfanji’s a kingpin among pirates in central Somalia, a boss on the level of Afweyne, so he belongs in jail. In my case he seems to have been a major investor, not an operational boss, not in charge of holding or even capturing me,” says Moore.

The capture of the pirate chief would be “significant,” Cole admits, if he could be taken abroad for arrest. “But unless the Somali authorities can extend their reach to where he is, it’s going to rely on him traveling overseas and getting picked up, which I don’t think he does.”

But it has not only been the weakness of the Somali authorities that has enabled Garfanji to evade capture: other Somali pirate figures have taken on his name in order to confuse both his potential captors and hostages.

Three hostages who spoke to Newsweek appeared to believe that they were describing Garfanji when it appears they were giving the account of their experiences with a lower-level boss named Ali Duulaay, more brutal and present in day-to-day operations with hostages.

A Filipino hostage and two Bangladeshi hostages recounted a man who threatened crews with death at gunpoint in exchange for them retrieving money from their shipowners.

But while they described Garfanji has “tall and muscly,” Moore describes him as a heavy set man that looked little like Duulaay, who he believes may have been killed in a shootout over his ransom.

“Poverty is Slavery”

As for Garfanji’s motive for moving from hostage-taking to aiding terrorist groups, it is likely to be financial, says the U.N.’s Cole: “there’s no particular reason why that means that he’s sympathetic with them but he must know who they are.”

That would fit with the profile of top pirates that hostage negotiators have had to barter with. A hostage negotiator who has worked on more than a dozen piracy cases tells Newsweek that the characteristics of Somali pirates like Garfanji include being “brilliant entrepreneurs” and “pragmatic” in terms of “religious observation and getting a deal done.”

Moore agrees that Garfanji fits this profile. “Pirate bosses are businessmen, so they keep a portfolio of investments, normally in businesses that require armed men or help them launder money,” he says, adding that Garfanji has stakes in real estate. “He also maintains a private militia of armed men who can be hired out as security for a town, or bent towards other activities, like piracy or smuggling.”

The bandits’ stream of income from kidnaps and ransoms, some that fetched millions of dollars at the height of piracy, has dried up, with no commercials vessel attacked for five years until April, when the International Maritime Bureau reported four incidents involving pirate skiffs approaching ships.

Increased security and naval patrols have led to a reduction in attacks, forcing pirates to find other forms of income on land, another reason that may explain Garfanji fraternizing with extremists who have slaughtered hundreds of civilians in mass-casualty assaults such as the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, and the 2015 Garissa University College massacre.

“The criminal networks that have been running Somali piracy are still intact, those ashore who are behind and funding the criminals and organized crime to do it largely have not been arrested or changed sides, they are still there,” says John Thompson, senior advisor and founder of Ambrey Risk, a London-based maritime security consultancy.

“They are still organized crime syndicates, but they are just doing slightly different things. They are finding it harder to make money out of piracy, so they are doing more smuggling [of] people, smuggling [of] weapons, smuggling [of] drugs.”

A Somali proverb states that “poverty is slavery.” It appears that pirate figures like Garfanji will now go to even more extreme lengths to get out of it.

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Piracy

Somali pirate kings are under investigation for helping ISIS and al-Shabaab

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Mohamed Garfanje

Robyn Kriel and Briana Duggan

(CNN)In the vital transport corridors of the troubled Gulf of Aden, an old but dangerous adversary has returned to the seas — pirates.

But they may not be acting alone.

Four years since piracy attacks reached their peak, CNN sources have found threats on Somali waters are broader than ever.

Pirate kingpins

CNN has learned that the United Nations and the United States are investigating at least two pirate kingpins for providing material support to terror groups.

That ‘material support’ includes helping factions of the two terror groups, al Qaeda linked al-Shabaab and Somalia’s ISIS faction, who ironically despise each other, smuggle weapons and perhaps even people across the Gulf of Aden.

One of them is Mohamed Garfanje, the kingpin of the Hobyo-Haradhere Piracy Network, which thrived in the tiny fishing village of Haradhere — often considered the birthplace of modern Somali piracy.

Garfanje is also one of the main suspects wanted for the kidnapping of American-German journalist Michael Scott Moore in 2012.

Moore tells CNN he met Garfanje during the harrowing two years and a half he spent as an hostage.

According to three sources CNN has spoken to, Garfanje is believed to have helped al-Shabaab smuggle weapons and ammunition into Somalia.

He is also still carrying out pirate attacks, according to leading piracy watchdog organization, Oceans Beyond Piracy.

“Garfanje should be in jail,” Moore said. “If it’s true that he and Bakeyle (another pirate) are out catching ships again, then they should be rounded up by authorities and prosecuted.”

Another pirate kingpin, whom CNN is not naming, is believed to have been smuggling arms and people to ISIS’s small but worrisome faction in Somalia, based in Qandala, in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, according to UN and US sources.

UN sources say he has assisted ISIS with logistics and has a relationship with Abdulkadir Mumin, the leader of ISIS in Somalia.

Oceans Beyond Piracy researchers believe he is behind some of the recent piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden.

The Gulf of Aden off Somalia has been plagued by crimes at sea for years. It has been destabilized by a devastating, decades-long civil war on land.

After a four-year lull, more than 12 maritime piracy attacks have occurred off the coast of Somalia so far this year, according to this report by Oceans Beyond Piracy.

U.S. response

The recent pirate attacks have attracted comment from the US Military. During US Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ visit to the US base in Djibouti, he spoke on the rise in piracy in the region.

Mattis told reporters that the US military was monitoring the situation but he added that he didn’t see the US playing a “big military role.”

However this could change if those pirates are proven to be substantially aiding terrorists, says Joshua Meservey, a senior policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank that has provided policy recommendations to President Donald Trump’s administration.

Meservey told CNN that the US would have an incentive to disrupt the pirate networks if it “gains conclusive evidence that pirates are actively helping al-Shabaab, such as by smuggling weapons to them.”

Jason Warner is a professor at the US Military Academy, West Point, in the academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. “At the very worst, there is active collusion; at the very least Shabaab gets a cut of the money from pirates emanating from Shabaab-held ground. There have also been instances of Shabaab taxing the pirates,” he told CNN.

“With the current trends indicating that piracy is once again picking up off the Horn of Africa, these relationships between pirates and Shabaab will likely re-emerge as an important flashpoint,” Warner said.

“I think Trump does care about Somalia,” said Meservey. “He is clearly focused on terror threats, and al-Shabaab remains an effective, active terrorist organization.

“It also once attracted dozens of Americans to join it, and the fear is that it could do so again. I think the trend that began under Obama towards a more active military role in Somalia will continue with Trump,” he added.

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