Connect with us

Piracy

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

Published

on

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.

Piracy

What is happening to Africa’s pirates?

Published

on

MODERN African pirates prefer machetes, machineguns and ransoms to cutlasses and parrots. They can make millions of dollars from one captured ship.

Ten years ago Somalia’s coast was the centre of the maritime-hijacking world. The country lacked a coastguard or functioning state machinery, which allowed heavily armed pirates to sail up to huge cargo vessels in speedboats before boarding and taking crew and ship hostage. But 2017 was not a good year for buccaneers.

According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which monitors crime at sea, global piracy and robbery at sea dipped to their lowest points in over two decades. So what is happening to Africa’s pirates?

The peak years of the Somali piracy crisis were 2007 to 2012. Attacks across the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea took place nearly daily. In 2011 there were 237 attacks in the region, reportedly costing businesses and insurers $8.3bn (£5.1bn). Recently, however, Somali piracy has plummeted.
According to the IMB, just nine vessels were hijacked off the Somali coast last year. This is in part because regional security has improved dramatically. The Gulf of Aden leads to the Suez canal, through which roughly 10% of global trade flows. After scores of kidnaps and hijackings, the world launched a huge naval anti-piracy effort in 2008.

For the first time since the second world war, all five permanent members of the UN Security Council deployed forces together, with the aim of countering the threat and patrolling the Somali coastline. Along with the introduction of armed guards, barbed wire and evasive-manoeuvre training on merchant ships, this campaign has slashed the number of successful boarding incidents off Somalia, according to Henry MacHale at Aspen Insurance.

Somali pirates may have hung up their Kalashnikovs for now, but on the other side of Africa, piracy off the Nigerian coast is increasing. In 2017, 33 incidents of piracy and robbery at sea, successful or otherwise, were reported within 12 nautical miles of the coastline.

In 2011 there were ten. Ultra-violent Nigerian pirates armed with heavy machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades are often behind the attacks. Somali pirates usually board vessels, then drop anchor and hold them until they get ransom money.

Nigerian pirates are different. They move fast, take part in ferocious gun-battles and snatch victims off ships before retreating into the Niger Delta’s maze of rivers, where it is very difficult for security forces to find them.

The number of kidnappings is also sky-high. According to the IMB, 65 of the 75 crew members kidnapped in 2017 were taken in or around Nigerian waters.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, which stretches from Gabon to Liberia, has not reached the levels it did off Somalia. But Cyrus Mody from the IMB suggests that the figures underplay the danger.

The IMB’s data do not include attacks on fishing craft or ferries, which are certainly being terrorised by the pirates. Additionally, it seems likely that operators are not reporting some incidents.

“Over the years [the Nigerian pirates] haven’t been arrested or prosecuted it seems,” says Mr Mody. “Ship owners have lost trust in the system.” By reporting an incident they risk suffering violent attacks on their ships in future. So they stay quiet.

Continue Reading

Briefing Room

Piracy, armed robbery against ships falls to two-decade low: report

Published

on

NAIROBI – A total of 180 incidents of maritime piracy and armed robbery were reported in 2017, the lowest annual number of incidents since 1995 when 188 reports were received, a global maritime body said on Wednesday.

The latest report released in London by the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reveals that pirates boarded 136 vessels in 2017, while there were 22 attempted attacks, 16 vessels fired upon and six vessels hijacked.
Despite the fall, the global maritime body cautioned foreign vessels/masters not to be complacent as they transit the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

“Although the number of attacks is down this year in comparison with last year, the Gulf of Guinea and the waters around Nigeria remain a threat to seafarers. The Nigerian authorities have intervened in a number of incidents helping to prevent incidents from escalating,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB.

According to IMB, in 15 separate incidents, 91 crew members were taken hostage and 75 were kidnapped from their vessels in 13 other incidents. Three crew members were killed in 2017 and six injured.
In 2016, a total of 191 incidents were reported, with 150 vessels boarded and 151 crew members taken hostage.
The report also called on shipmasters to follow the industry’s Best Management Practices and continue to remain vigilant as they sail through waters off Somalia.

The report said nine incidents were recorded off Somalia in 2017, up from two in 2016. In November, a container ship was attacked by armed pirates approximately 280 nautical miles east of Somali capital Mogadishu.
The pirates, unable to board the vessel due to the ship’s evasive maneuvering fired two RPG rockets, both of which missed, before retreating.

The IMB said six Somali pirates were subsequently detained by European Union Naval Force, transferred to the Seychelles and charged with “committing an act of piracy” where they face up to 30 years’ imprisonment, if convicted.
“This dramatic incident, alongside our 2017 figures, demonstrates that Somali pirates retain the capability and intent to launch attacks against merchant vessels hundreds of miles from their coastline,” Mukundan said.
According to IMB, there were 36 reported incidents in the Gulf of Guinea last year with no vessels hijacked in this area and 10 incidents of kidnapping involving 65 crew members in or around Nigerian waters. Globally 16 vessels reported being fired upon — including seven in the Gulf of Guinea.

The drop in piracy incidents is however a relief to shipping companies using the Indian Ocean that had in previous years been the target of pirates, often paying heavy ransom to secure release of their vehicles and the crew.
The African maritime industry, along the Indian Ocean had until 2013 been greatly affected by piracy that raised the costs of shipping as insurance companies and private ship security companies increased their premiums to mitigate the risks.

Continue Reading

Piracy

Certain powers funding Somalia pirates to undermine Iran economy

Published

on

MEHR NEWS — Iran’s Navy Commander Khanzadi deemed Somalia piracy as a kind of terrorism formed in 2007 by proxy in a bid to undermine the Islamic Republic’s economy.

Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi made the remark on Sunday in a welcoming ceremony for the return of the 49th fleet after 67 days of voyage on open seas, adding “there was a tremendous attempt at depicting the presence of piracy off the coast of Somalia as something natural, but the acts of piracy reveal certain coordinators and perpetrators behind this new phenomenon in the 21st century.”

Khanzadi went on to add that certain powers are supplying Somalia pirates with intelligence and equipment, and funding them in a bid to undermine the economy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Iranian Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden since November 2008 to safeguard the vessels involved in maritime trade, especially the ships and oil tankers owned or leased by Iran.

Elsewhere, Khanzadi referred to the ‘Indian Ocean Naval Symposium’ (IONS) that was formed in 2010 with efforts by regional countries, including Iran, and noted that Iran’s Navy had proposed a plan for formation of a martial naval fleet at the IONS, which was approved by 36 countries in the region and it was decided that Iran present the complementary plan in the future.

He went on to add that the final decision on the proposal at the 2016 IONS in Bangladesh did not reach the point of implementation, but it managed to lead to the staging of relief and rescue exercises by Indian Ocean Naval Forces.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

TRENDING