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Sixty Somali nationals sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment

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According to the prosecution, on March 12, 2011, the Southern Naval Command headquarters had apprised Navy officials on Indian naval warship INS Kalpeni of a pirate attack near Lakshwadeep Island in the Exclusive Economic Zone of India.

A sessions court in Mumbai on Friday sentenced 60 Somali men to seven-year prison term for a piracy attack on a merchant vessel in 2011. It is the last case currently being heard by the Mumbai court involving Somali nationals apprehended in anti-piracy operations in 2011 by the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard.

According to the prosecution, on March 12, 2011, the Southern Naval Command headquarters had apprised Navy officials on Indian naval warship INS Kalpeni of a pirate attack near Lakshwadeep Island in the Exclusive Economic Zone of India.

The pirate vessel was not displaying the mandatory Automatic Identification System. Subsequently, two small high speed boats were also seen departing from the pirated vessel, later identified as Vega-5.

The boats opened fire on Kalpeni and its officers. Subsequently, communication was made with the pirate vessel and they were ordered to surrender. The men on the pirate vessel retaliated with a message stating that if they are not left alone, they will kill hostages on the ship.

In retaliatory firing that followed, there was a large explosion on the pirate vessel after which the pirates began jumping out of it.

The rescue operation by the Navy led to a total of 74 persons being rescued, which included 13 persons who were the original crew of Vega-5 who were nationals of Indonesia and Mozambique. The men were eventually arrested by the Yellow Gate police station and booked under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, Indian Arms Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

On the basis of the deposition of 19 witnesses in the case, the court on Friday found the men guilty under Sections, including 307 (attempt to murder), 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and other relevant sections of the UAPA.

The men were acquitted of charges, including 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 364A (kidnapping for ransom) IPC.

They were also found guilty under the Indian Arms Act for illegal possession of weapons including 11 AK-47 rifles with magazines, 10 AK-47 rifles without magazines, two rocket launchers, ten magazines of rocket launchers.

Judge J C Jagdale has directed the state to deport the accused to their native state, Somalia, after release from prison.

One among the 61 men who were arrested, died during the trial due to illness. The case against him was abated. As per a treaty signed between India and Somalia regarding mutual transfer of prisoners, the 118 Somali men convicted in four separate cases in all, will be deported to Somalia to complete the remainder of their terms. The men have already spent over six years in prison in Navi Mumbai.

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Briefing Room

Diplomatic leaks: UAE dissatisfied with Saudi policies

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AL JAZEERA — Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) is working on breaking up Saudi Arabia, leaked documents obtained by Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar revealed.

Al Akhbar said that the leaked documents contained secret diplomatic briefings sent by UAE and Jordanian ambassadors in Beirut to their respective governments.

One of the documents, issued on September 20, 2017, disclosed the outcome of a meeting between Jordan’s ambassador to Lebanon Nabil Masarwa and his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdel-Al al-Qenaie.

“The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is working on breaking up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Jordanian envoy quoted the Kuwait ambassador as saying.

A second document, issued on September 28, 2017, reveals meeting minutes between the Jordanian ambassador and his UAE counterpart Hamad bin Saeed al-Shamsi.

The document said the Jordanian ambassador informed his government that UAE believes that “Saudi policies are failing both domestically and abroad, especially in Lebanon”.

“The UAE is dissatisfied with Saudi policies,” the Jordanian envoy said.

The Qatar vote
According to the leaks, UAE ambassador claims that Lebanon voted for Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari in his bid to become head of UNESCO in October 2017.

“[Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri knew Lebanon was voting for Qatar,” the UAE ambassador said in a cable sent to his government on October 18, 2017.

In November last year, Hariri announced his shock resignation from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

He later deferred his decision, blaming Iran and its Lebanese ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, for his initial resignation. He also said he feared an assassination attempt.

Officials in Lebanon alleged that Hariri was held hostage by Saudi authorities, an allegation Hariri denied in his first public statement following his resignation speech.

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Briefing Room

Somalia’s Puntland region asks UAE to stay as Gulf split deepens

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BOSASO, Somalia (Reuters) – Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region urged the United Arab Emirates not to close its security operations in the country after a dispute with the central government, saying the Gulf power was a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants.

The dispute goes to the heart of an increasingly troubled relationship between Gulf states – divided by their own disputes – and fractured Somalia, whose coastline sits close to key shipping routes and across the water from Yemen.

Analysts have said the complex standoff risks exacerbating an already explosive security situation on both sides of the Gulf of Aden, where militant groups launch regular attacks.

The central Somali government said on Wednesday it was taking over a military training program run by the UAE.

Days later the UAE announced it was pulling out, accusing Mogadishu of seizing millions of dollars from a plane, money it said was meant to pay soldiers.

“We ask our UAE friends, not only to stay, but to redouble their efforts in helping Somalia stand on its feet,” said the office of the president of Puntland, a territory that sits on the tip of the Horn of Africa looking out over the Gulf of Aden.

Ending UAE support, “will only help our enemy, particularly Al Shabaab and ISIS (Islamic State),” it added late on Monday.

SUSPICION, RESENTMENT

The UAE is one of a number of Gulf powers that have opened bases along the coast of the Horn of Africa and promised investment and donations as they compete for influence in the insecure but strategically important region.

That competition has been exacerbated by a diplomatic rift between Qatar and a bloc including the UAE. In turn, those splits have worsened divisions in Somalia.

Puntland, which has said it wants independence, has sought to woo the UAE which runs an anti-piracy training center there and is developing the main port. The central government in Mogadishu last year criticized Puntland for taking sides in the Gulf dispute. Qatar’s ally Turkey is one of Somalia’s biggest investors.

One Somali government official said last week Mogadishu had decided to take over the UAE operation because the Gulf state’s contract to run it had expired. Another official said the government was investigating the money taken from the plane.

The competition among Gulf states in Somalia has fueled accusations of foreign interference and resentment in many corners of Somali society.

The loss of the UAE program could have a destabilizing effect, said one security analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The value of the UAE trained forces was two-fold – they were relatively well trained but, most importantly, they were paid on time,” unlike other parts of the security forces, the analyst told Reuters.

Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991.

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Briefing Room

Puntland President calls UAE continue its mission in Somalia

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