A number of incidents in recent weeks has underlined the fact that the threat from Somalian piracy is far from over. Over the course of the past month, there has been a rise in the number of attacks and suspicious approaches in the Gulf of Aden, Southern Red Sea and Bab-el Mandeb straight. “None of the incidents have resulted in ransom payments being made, although they underscore the continued vulnerability of vessels transiting the High Risk Area, particularly for those that fail to implement effective counter-piracy measures,” says Kateryna Yakunchenkova, General Manager of Dubai-based Al Safina Security (ALSS).
On 13th March 2017, Somali pirates hijacked the Aris 13, a Comoros-flagged oil tanker en route to Mogadishu from Djibouti, marking the first seizure of such a large commercial vessel since 2012. The Aris 13 reported that two skiffs had approached it with weapons sighted on one of the boats. The Aris 13 had been attempting to pass through the Socotra Gap, a route between Ethiopia and the island of Socotra in Yemen when it was boarded by the pirates. The route is often used by vessels traveling along the east coast of Africa as a shortcut to save time and money. The European Union Naval Force reported that pirates had demanded an undisclosed ransom for the vessel’s return. But it was later confirmed that the boat and its eight crew members had been released due to the efforts of the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF). The entire crew is reported unharmed.
Mrs. Yakunchenkova says, “We see ship owners have become less wary of piracy, and some have started using the riskier Socotra Gap route to save time and money. Today we can see the serious outcome from this approach.”
On March 31, the dhow Al Kausar and its cargo of rice and wheat were hijacked en route from Dubai to Yemen. Its 11 Indian sailors were taken hostage; two of the crew were subsequently rescued from a car that the pirates abandoned in a chase, while the other nine are still missing. In a third incident the dhow Casayr II was taken on 24th March and was believed to be operating as a mother ship off Socotra Island. It was released after the pirates took food and diesel.
A Pakistan-owned cargo vessel Salama 1 has also recently been hijacked by Somali pirates, while on 8th April a cargo ship OS-35, flying the flag of Tuvalu, was attacked by pirates while heading from Port Kelang to Aden, Yemen. The hijack attempt was foiled due to timely rescue operations mounted by international maritime forces in the vicinity. The crew reportedly retreated to the onboard citadel after activating an alert system.
Amid these piracy incidents, India’s Directorate General of Shipping issued a maritime security advisory recommending all vessels to avoid transiting the Gulf of Aden, keeping a safe distance of at least more than 200 nautical miles from the coast.
“These pirate incidents demonstrate the importance of continually pursuing the anti-piracy defence line,” Mrs. Yakunchenkova commented. “In light of the recent activity, the critical importance of staying vigilant at all times passing the High Risk Area, route risk assessment planning, and compliance with BMP4, the implementation of which has been shown to be effective in protecting vessels and crews, cannot be understated. The threat of Somali piracy has never been eradicated.”
Al Safina Security advises clients to fill in the ship security review in compliance with the company’s ISO/PAS 9001:2008, 28007:2013 and 28007-1:2015 standards. It also advises: Conducting voyage-specific risk assessments; avoiding the practice of using the Socotra Gap as a short cut; increasing watch keeping, lookouts and bridge manning; installing sufficient hardening facilities; training ship staff in anti-piracy drill, and the use of appropriately trained and competent Private Contracted Armed Security Personnel (PCASP), the deployment of which should not be a substitute, but a supplement to effective compliance with the BMP4 guidelines.
Mrs. Yakunchenkova concludes, “In such a maritime security climate, it is imperative to adhere to existing counter-piracy measures to strengthen the security of commercial shipping. Partial compliance with the recommended procedures, as well as a reduction in precautions taken by shipping companies, can result in successful attacks, as we can see has happened lately. “
THE MARITIME STANDARD
UN Security Council asks for comprehensive response to piracy off Somali coast
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.
Pirates of the caliphate: who is the Somali kingpin accused of aiding Alshabaab?
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?
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.
Somali pirate kings are under investigation for helping ISIS and al-Shabaab
(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.
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.
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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