Thursday, April 16, 2009

Somali Pirates - What Next?

How Muslim Attackers Once Again Become the Victims
Press spin on Muslim Somali piratesBy Daniel Greenfield
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Even before the rescue of Captain Phillips, the press was already hard at work doing what they always do, spinning the Muslim perpetrators of the attack into its victims. The current story that is beginning to rise through the bowels of the mainstream media is that the pirates are actually volunteer fisherman who have banded together to stop toxic dumping and fishing by foreign vessels.
That’s right the Somali pirates are actually misunderstood environmentalists. And once again Westerners are to blame for causing the poor Muslims to attack them.
Al Jazeera seems to have taken the lead in pushing the “environmentalist pirates” angle, naturally it then percolated through the usual “hate America” channels such as Prison Planet and Democratic Underground, and is slowly bubbling through into mainstream news stories on Somali piracy.
This of course is typical of how Muslim attackers become the victims. The first step is to portray the Muslim attackers as responding or retaliating to crimes committed against them by “colonial” powers. If that direct approach fails, Plan B involves blaming the whole thing on poverty, and “solving the problem” with aid and some “peace talks” with the more violent factions, who will then naturally play key roles in the new government.
Nowhere in the mainstream press however will you find stories on how the pirates see themselves as following Muslim law-- the precedent having been set by Mohammed’s banditry, leading his gang of Muslims\Thugs on raids against caravans and local tribes. Rare is the mention that the pirates are even Muslims. It wouldn’t do to tarnish the otherwise sterling image of the Religion of Peace.
But the overall thrust of the Somali piracy story has always been to argue how wrong the Bush Administration was in backing the overthrow of the ICU, the Islamic Courts Union, an Al Queda linked local version of the Taliban.
The ICU had formed as a stealth network of Sharia courts that took advantage of the local political chaos to seize power, with backing from Eritrea. The result was a brutal Islamist state that beheaded men for watching soccer tournaments and treated women much as you would expect. They shut down schools and recruited thousands of child soldiers into their armies. And the media applauded them for bringing “stability” to Somalia.
Not satisfied with turning Somalia into an Islamist tyranny, the ICU also announced plans to seize parts of Kenya and Ethiopia inhabited by Muslim minorities in order to create a supra-Islamist state.
Ethiopia naturally saw the writing on the wall and realized that if it didn’t fight the ICU in Somalia, they would be fighting them at home and intervened. The ICU’s terrorists and child soldiers scattered like rats, some of them already equipped with weapons and ties to the local Sharia courts, went into the piracy business.
The media’s response to Ethiopia’s invasion ranged anywhere from skeptical to outright hostile… particularly since the Bush Administration backed the move and carried out targeted strikes against some ICU leaders who were also members of Al Queda. Ever since then the media has repeatedly bemoaned the loss of “stability” brought to Somalia by the ICU.
The ICU has lost direct military control over Somalia, but its former leader has won Somalia’s Presidential election and its government is packed with former ICU leaders. Meanwhile the Arab League has brokered a move to legitimize Hizbul Islam led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, with close ties to Al Queda. Slowly behind the scenes, the Islamist’s goal for Somalia and all of Africa is back on track.
Iran and Eritrea backed and trained ICU terrorists and insurgents as part of the larger goal of an Islamic Africa. Yet the media has repeatedly hailed the ICU for bringing stability to Somalia, while repeatedly attacking Ethiopia’s government for suppressing dissent. The difference? Ethiopia is Christian and Somalia and Eritrea are Muslim. So we’re now seeing a push to force Ethiopia into making territorial concessions to Eritrea, despite Eritrea’s longstanding support and training for Islamist terrorists.
And when it comes to the pirate gangs, many of whom are former or current ICU fighters, the new “cycle of violence” narrative is already taking root in the press. Clearly of course America has begun a cycle of violence by shooting the non-violent environmentalist pirates. And the Islamist criminals are once again the real victims.
It’s only a matter of time until the peace negotiations begin.
Somali PM asks for more help to fight pirates
By Elizabeth A. Kennedy and Katharine Houreld
16 April 2009
MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — Somalia's prime minister says his government has identified many pirate leaders and would be willing to share that information with other countries, including the United States, to get the resources needed to go after them.
Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, speaking Thursday to The Associated Press in an exclusive interview, said the pirates have become so wealthy and powerful that they threaten his government.
"We have information on who is behind this, who is involved," Sharmarke said in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. "There is a lot of money flowing in ... we are following very closely how money is distributed here."
He was referring to the fact that Somali pirates can earn $1 million or more in ransom for each hijacked ship. Forty-two ships were hijacked by Somali pirates last year, and so far 19 have been taken this year.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Wednesday announced new diplomatic efforts to freeze the pirates' assets and said the Obama administration will work with shippers and insurers to improve their defenses against pirates.
"These pirates are criminals, they are armed gangs on the sea. And those plotting attacks must be stopped," Clinton said in Washington.
Clinton did not call for military force, although she mentioned "going after" pirate bases in Somalia. She urged the U.S. and others to "explore ways to track and freeze" pirate ransom money and other funds used in purchases of new boats, weapons and communications equipment.
Sharmarke said the Somali government was presenting a plan to envoys from the European Union, the United States and a regional authority to fight pirates by building up military forces and establishing intelligence-gathering posts along its coastline.
"The best way to actually deal with this is to prevent (the pirates) from going into the waters," Sharmarke said. "We are planning to establish at least ten or more observation posts on the coastline."
Still, it was not clear how this plan could cover the 1,900-mile (3,100-kilometer) Somali coastline, since his government controls only a few square blocks of the capital, Mogadishu, with the aid of African peacekeepers.
Donors have also been reluctant to fund a government with little accountability but the recent spike in piracy attacks may change that. Somali pirates are holding more than 280 foreign crewmen captive on 15 ships — at least 76 of those sailors captured in recent days.
Meanwhile, the American sea captain held hostage for five days by pirates reached port in Kenya on Thursday, hours after his crew held a joyous reunion with their families at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
Capt. Richard Phillips of the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama cargo ship was brought into Mombasa harbor aboard the USS Bainbridge, which docked to the music of "Sweet Home Alabama" — the Lynyrd Skynyrd hit that includes the words "I'm coming home to you."
Phillips, 53, of Underhill, Vermont, gave himself up as a hostage to ensure the safety of his crew. He was freed Sunday by Navy SEAL sharpshooters who killed his three captors.
Phillips planned to spend Thursday night on the Bainbridge, according to Maersk shipping line spokesman Gordan van Hook. He would not say when Phillips planned to fly home but a charter plane is reportedly on standby at Mombasa airport.
There were hugs, tears and a massive sense of relief when the crew of the Maersk Alabama finally reunited with loved ones after arriving at 1 a.m. Thursday at Andrews.
One crewman, carrying a child toward the terminal, shouted, "I'm happy to see my family!" Another exclaimed, "God bless America."
Also Thursday, another U.S. cargo ship, the Liberty Sun, arrived in Mombasa, its bridge damaged by rocket-propelled grenades and its windows shattered by gunfire after a pirate attack Tuesday.
The Liberty Sun's 20 American crew members crew successfully blockaded themselves in the engine room and warded off the attack with evasive maneuvers. The ship had been carrying food aid for Africans.
The European Union said Thursday it is boosting its anti-piracy fleet off the Somali coast to 11 ships, with the addition of three Swedish frigates in May. Its main task is to escort cargo ships carrying U.N. World Food Program aid to hungry Somalis.
Nearly a dozen countries, including the United States, have anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast.
The Gulf of Aden, which links the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, is the shortest route from Asia to Europe. More than 20,000 ships cross the vital sea lane every year.
Somalia Pirate Interview
US cargo ship evades Somali pirate attack
By Elizabeth A. Kennedy – 15 April 2009
MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — Defiant Somali pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at another U.S. cargo ship on Tuesday but failed to hijack it, officials said, just days after Navy SEALs rescued an American hostage after an earlier unsuccessful hijacking.
The brazen midday attack on the MV Liberty Sun in international waters off the African coast is further evidence that Somali pirates are back to business as usual. Pirates have seized four other ships with 60 hostages since sharpshooters killed three gunmen holding American freighter captain Richard Phillips. "No one can deter us," one bandit boasted.
The Liberty Sun's American crew was not injured but the vessel sustained unspecified damage in the attack, owner Liberty Maritime Corp. said in a statement Tuesday night.
"We are under attack by pirates, we are being hit by rockets. Also bullets," crewman Thomas Urbik, 26, wrote his mother in an e-mail Tuesday. "We are barricaded in the engine room and so far no one is hurt. (A) rocket penetrated the bulkhead but the hole is small. Small fire, too, but put out."
It was not immediately clear what happened next, but Urbik's sent a follow-up e-mail "that said he was safe and they had a naval escort taking them in," his mother, Katy Urbik said.
A U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, responded to the attack but the pirates had departed by the time it arrived some six hours later, Navy Capt. Jack Hanzlik said.
The Bainbridge is the same destroyer from which snipers killed the three pirates holding Phillips captive aboard a drifting lifeboat for five days. The Bainbridge was carrying Phillips to Kenya when it was called to respond to the attack on the Liberty Sun.
The Liberty Sun, with its crew of about 20 Americans, was carrying humanitarian aid to Mombasa, Kenya, Hanzlik said. It continued on its way to Kenya after the attack under Navy escort, the company said.
"We commend the entire crew for its professionalism and poise under fire," Liberty Maritime, of Lake Success, N.Y., said in the statement. President Philip J. Shapiro and chief financial officer Dale B. Moses declined to comment further.
Katy Urbik, said she was "very relieved and grateful to God for protecting him and to our Navy, and that we come from a country that can respond like that and protect our citizens."
The brigands are grabbing more ships and hostages to show they would not be intimidated by President Barack Obama's pledge to confront the high-seas bandits, according to a pirate based in the Somali coastal town of Harardhere.
"Our latest hijackings are meant to show that no one can deter us from protecting our waters from the enemy because we believe in dying for our land," Omar Dahir Idle told The Associated Press by telephone. "Our guns do not fire water. I am sure we will avenge."
On Monday, Obama vowed to "halt the rise of piracy" without saying exactly how the U.S. and allies would do it.
The pirates have vowed vengeance for five colleagues slain by U.S. and French forces in two hostage rescues since Friday.
The top U.S. military officer, Adm. Michael Mullen, said he takes the pirates' threats seriously, but "we're very well prepared to deal with anything like that." Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Phillips, was to return home to the United States on Wednesday, after reuniting with the 19-man crew of the Maersk Alabama in the Kenyan port of Mombasa, according to the shipping company Maersk Line Ltd.
Phillips, 53, of Underhill, Vt. was steaming toward Kenya aboard the Bainbridge, where he was being debriefed by FBI officials and maritime experts, said a senior U.S. defense official in Washington. He said the investigators are gathering evidence of what each captor did for possible criminal investigations and to better prepare for future hostage situations. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
Phillips will take a chartered flight to meet his family at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., for a private reception, according to Maersk. He was rescued Sunday when U.S. Navy SEALs snipers killed three pirates holding him hostage on a lifeboat, and a fourth surrendered. Phillips had been held captive for five days after exchanging himself to safeguard his crew during a thwarted hijacking of the Alabama by the pirates last week.
After a lull at the beginning of the year because of rough seas, the pirates since the end of February have attacked 78 ships, hijacked 19 of them and hold 16 vessels with more than 300 hostages from a dozen or so countries.
The pirates say they are fighting illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste in Somali waters but have come to operate hundreds of miles from there in a sprawling 1.1 million square-mile danger zone.
Pirates can extort $1 million and more for each ship and crew. Kenya estimates they raked in $150 million last year.
A flotilla of warships from nearly a dozen countries has patrolled the Gulf of Aden and nearby Indian Ocean waters for months. They have halted many attacks but say the area is so vast they can't stop all hijackings.
The Gulf of Aden, which links the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, is the shortest route from Asia to Europe and one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, crossed by more than 20,000 ships each year. The alternative route around the continent's southern Cape of Good Hope takes up to two weeks longer at huge expense.
In an unusual nighttime raid, pirates seized the Greek-managed bulk carrier MV Irene E.M. before dawn Tuesday. Hours later, they commandeered the Lebanese-owned cargo ship MV Sea Horse.
On Sunday or Monday, they took two Egyptian fishing trawlers. Maritime officials said the Irene carried 21 to 23 Filipino crew and the fishing boats 36 fishermen, all believed to be Egyptian. A carrier the size of the Sea Horse would need at least a dozen crew, although the exact number was not immediately available.
NATO spokeswoman Shona Lowe said pirates in three or four speedboats captured the Sea Horse off Somalia's eastern coast.
The Yemeni Embassy in Washington said its coast guard exchanged gunfire Monday with 14 Somali pirates who had hijacked a 23-foot Yemeni fishing vessel. Its forces freed 13 Yemeni hostages and detained two pirates, while the rest fled on a boat, the embassy said.
The Egyptian boats were taken in the gulf off Somalia's northern coast. Said Mursi, Egypt's ambassador to Somalia who is based in Kenya, said the trawlers probably did not have licenses to fish Somali waters. "From my experience, I think that they were illegally fishing," he told The Associated Press.
Commercial fishing boats have been illegally harvesting Somalia's rich and varied sea life, including sought-after yellowfin tuna, since the country collapsed into lawlessness in the 1990s. The United Nations estimates the illegal fishing costs the Horn of Africa nation $300 million annually.
The pirates who attacked the Alabama were between 17 and 19, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.
"Untrained teenagers with heavy weapons," Gates said in a speech at the Marine Corps War College. "Everybody in the room knows the consequences of that."
Most ships are hijacked without a shot fired. Freed hostages report being treated well.
The U.S. is considering new options to fight piracy, including adding Navy gunships along the Somali coast and launching a campaign to disable pirate "mother ships," according to military officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because no decisions have been made yet.
U.S. officials are considering whether to bring the fourth pirate involved in the Alabama attack to the United States or turn him over to Kenya for prosecution. Both piracy and hostage-taking carry life prison sentences under U.S. law.
Clinton Calls for Crackdown on Somali Pirate BasesBy Jeff Bliss and Viola Gienger
April 15, 2009 (Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for authorities in Somalia to act against land bases that pirates use to attack ships and said the U.S. will seek ways to track and freeze assets of the brigands.
Clinton said she has assigned a team of U.S. diplomats to press the Somali government and leaders of Puntland, a semi- autonomous region in Somalia, to take action against the land bases.
The U.S. wants “to know what the Somali government, what tribal leaders, who perhaps would not like to have the international community bearing down on them, would be willing to do to rid their territory of these pirate bases,” she said.
Three U.S. Navy snipers on April 12 killed three pirates holding the American captain of the first U.S.-flagged vessel that was attacked off Somalia, intensifying the Obama administration’s involvement in the problem.
In an interview before the Clinton announcement, Elmi Duale, Somalia’s ambassador to the United Nations, said his government has requested help for Somalis to go after the pirates.
“The government has asked for more support for our security forces so we can patrol the coasts, on land, and to set up a branch of the military for keeping the ports safe,” he said.
Duale said the Somali government opposes any foreign military operations against the land bases.
‘Collateral Damage’
“On land it would be a disaster,” he said. “There would be collateral damage, which we don’t want, and would create more antagonism to the peace process.”
There are signs Somalis are moving against the pirates. A Puntland court today sentenced 27 people to three years imprisonment each after convicting them of piracy.
The Obama administration is feeling pressure to take military action. Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, yesterday sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to authorize military strikes against the bases.
“I encourage you to pursue these pirates beyond the waters we are currently patrolling and into the safe havens where they are operating,” wrote Skelton, a Missouri Democrat.
Land-Attack Plans
Earlier this week, defense officials said they are preparing land-attack plans to be considered by the administration. They said the operations would be part of a broader proposal that would include food and agricultural aid and training for a Somali Coast Guard.
Clinton called for immediate meetings of a multinational Somali anti-piracy group that the U.S. belongs to, urging members to track and freeze the pirates’ financial assets.
Pirates are buying faster and more capable vessels, which makes focusing on their money and purchases important, Clinton said.
“There are ways to crack down on companies that do business with pirates,” she said.
The U.S. will work with other group members to figure out ways to secure the release of hostages and prosecute and imprison pirates, Clinton said.
Maritime legal analysts said prosecuting more pirates may act as deterrence.
Pirating’s ‘Downside’
“The downside of being a pirate hasn’t been too great” until the three pirates were killed by snipers’ bullets, said John Kimball, international and maritime practice group leader at Blank Rome LLP, a Philadelphia-based law firm.
The U.S. will send an envoy to a Brussels aid conference on April 23 to help Somalia combat the source of the attacks.
“We need better coordination,” Clinton said. “This is a huge expanse of ocean.”
Clinton also directed the State Department to work with shippers and the insurance industry to address gaps in their defense measures against pirates.
To contact the reporters on this story: Jeff Bliss in Washington; Viola Gienger in Washington at
Somali Pirates Are Getting Rich: A Look At The Profit MarginsDouglas A. McIntyre
Wednesday, Apr. 15, 2009,8599,1891386,00.html
Errol Flynn never had it this good in Captain Blood.Being a Somali pirate looks like a profitable business from the outside and it is. The margins are as attractive as those in the software industry. Microsoft still makes 60% or better margins on its core Windows, business, and server operations. With the risks that the pirates take, they ought to do as well as that.
The New York Times did a piece last year in which it estimated that the pirates would bring in $50 million in 2008. That number will be higher this year, by as much as four times. (See pictures of the brazen pirates of Somalia.)
Most information on hijacked ships is that the ransom paid to get them back is about $2 million per vessel and crew. In some cases, the pirates actually charge an additional fee for the ships which has been estimated as being as high as $5 million.
Based on 24/7 Wall St.'s evaluation of news reports, the Somali pirates are seizing near one ship per day now. This week, on a single day, they took over four vessels. Even though several large national navies including the US are policing the shipping channels to cut down piracy, the rate at which the pirates can grab prey is picked up fairly fast. The Somali pirates could take over between 80 and 120 vessels this year, and the figure is conservative. That would put their gross revenue as high as $200 million.
The pirates almost certainly pay protection to the head of the Puntland, Mohamud Muse Hirsi. Puntland is the region where most of the large "mother ships" that take the small pirate raiders out to sea, are located. For protection from international intervention on land, senior Puntland officials are probably getting a third of the take, or about $65 million.
The next largest expense is buying and keeping "mother ships" in good working order. The boats are usually trawlers which are, based on photos, about 100 feet long. One or two of these have been sunk by foreign navies, but they do not have to be replaced often. A large trawler built in the 1970s costs about $1 million. A trawler that is ten years old costs closer to $3 million. Some of the trawlers the pirates use were probably seized during their raids. Most research indicates that one out of three attempts by the pirates to hijack a ship succeeds. Covering enough ground to seize 120 vessels a year based on 400 attempts means that the pirates are probably running a dozen mother ships at any one time. The costs to "buy" and maintain those ships is about $3 million each per year, because a trawler that is seized for use and not ransomed is $3 million in revenue not taken in. Mother ship costs are at least $30 million, maybe $36 million. These are not annual costs. For each one sunk, the cost of replacement is $3 million. On a pro forma basis for operations, the cost of mother ships is $6 million.
Each mother ship works with four or five attack vessels, which are not unlike WWII PT boats, but are made of light-weight metal or composite instead of wood. Each of these has to run on two or more turbo diesels which put out 480 HP at 3,000 PRM. These are not engines which are likely to be used on any of the hijacked ships so they are probably one of the largest direct costs the pirates have. If the pirates operate 50 raiding boat it requires 100 engines. These cost as much as $15,000 each, so the cost of these is about $1.5 million. In most cases, they will not need to be replaced every year. The boat themselves are probably less than $50,000 for the 50 shells the total $2.5 million. Once again this is a one-time cost for those that are not sunk or abandoned.
Fuel for these diesels is probably very expensive but a lot of that can be taken from captured ships.
The pirates have to work with crews of mechanics, but their wages are probably modest.
Each mother ship and raider requires high- end GPS, radar and sonar. The best radars available for small ships run about $4,000. High end GSP system cost about $1,500, and sonar systems a little less than $1,000. All of the equipment runs about $400,000 for 12 trawlers and 50 raiders before installation costs. Once again, this is not an annual cost because most of the hardware can be used for several years.
The cost of what are called "extreme weather and marine" satellite phones from one of the two premier global providers, Iridium and GlobalStar, is $1,200 per unit. The cost of calls per minute is $5. Total cost for phones comes to $60,000 based on each team of pirates having two phones, and all of these probably get replaced each year due to damage. Assuming 100 minutes a month per phone and the total cost of airtime is $600,000.
Weapons are one of the largest single costs that Somali pirates have. According to a book on AK-47s from Amazon, the guns cost about $345. That is a total of $173,000 because each of 500 men is armed. The price for 9MM pistols on the black market runs about $200, for a total of $100,000. Browning 50 caliber machine guns are $14,000 each, with at least one per raider and two per mother ship for a total cost of just over $1 million. Rocket propelled grenades which are used in most raids run $3,000 and one is used in each of the 400 hijacking attempts for a total of $1.2 million. Total ammunition costs at $1 per bullet are $250,000.
Food and housing for 500 men and an average of 200 hostages has to be $10 a day, or $2.5 million a year.
Based on annual costs with pro forma calculations for things that have a life of more than a year, the expenses of operating the Somali pirate operation are $79 million. That puts the profit of the operation at over $120 million. It is worth contrasting that to the average income per capital in Somalia which is only about $600.
The pirate business is not going away. It is too profitable.
Democracy Now: Somalia Piracy Began in Response to Illegal Fishing and Toxic Dumping by Western Ships off Somali CoastApril 14, 2009
President Obama vowed an international crackdown to halt piracy off the coast of Somalia Monday soon after the freeing of US cargo ship captain Richard Phillips, who had been held hostage by Somali pirates since last Wednesday. While the pirates story has dominated the corporate media, there has been little to no discussion of the root causes driving piracy. We speak with consultant and analyst Mohamed Abshir Waldo. In January, he wrote a paper titled “The Two Piracies in Somalia: Why the World Ignores the Other?”
Guest:Mohamed Abshir Waldo, a consultant and analyst. He joins us on the line from Mombasa. He is Kenyan of Somali origin. He wrote a piece in January titled “The Two Piracies in Somalia: Why the World Ignores the Other?”
Amy Goodman: President Obama vowed an international crackdown to halt piracy off the coast of Somalia Monday soon after the freeing of US cargo ship captain Richard Phillips, who had been held hostage by Somali pirates since last Wednesday. Three Somali pirates were killed in the US operation.
While some military analysts are considering attacks on pirate bases inside Somalia in addition to expanding US Navy gunships along the Somali coastline, others are strongly opposed to a land invasion. US Congress member Donald Payne of New Jersey made a brief visit to the Somali capital of Mogadishu Monday and said piracy was, quote, a “symptom of the decades of instability.” His plane was targeted by mortar fire as he was leaving Somalia, soon after a pirate vowed revenge against the United States for killing his men.
Former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told Fox News over the weekend that the US should assemble a, quote, “coalition of the willing” to invade Somalia.
Meanwhile, local fishing and business communities along the Somali coast are suffering as a result of the increased American and international naval presence in their waters.
Somali Fisherman: [translated] American Marine forces always arrest us as we continue fishing. We meet their warships, and at times they send helicopters to take photos of us, as they suspect we are pirates. And we are not.
Somali Businessman: [translated] People are worried about the troops, as it is becoming more and more difficult to do business. There’s a lot of warships patrolling the sea, and merchant ships are getting more and more checked, thinking they are operated by pirates.
Amy Goodman: While the pirates story has dominated the corporate media, there has been little to no discussion of the root causes driving piracy.
Mohamed Abshir Waldo is a consultant and analyst in Kenya. He is Kenyan of Somali origin. In January, he wrote a paper called “The Two Piracies in Somalia: Why the World Ignores the Other?” He joins us on the phone right now from Mombasa.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
Mohamed Abshir Waldo: Hello. Thank you.
Amy Goodman: Good to have you with us. Can you talk about what you think the two piracies are?
Mohamed Abshir Waldo: Well, the two piracies are the original one, which was foreign fishing piracy by foreign trawlers and vessels, who at the same time were dumping industrial waste, toxic waste and, it also has been reported, nuclear waste. Most of the time, we feel it’s the same fishing vessels, foreign fishing vessels, that are doing both. That was the piracy that started all these problems.
And the other piracy is the shipping piracy. When the marine resources of Somalia was pillaged, when the waters were poisoned, when the fish was stolen, and in a poverty situation in the whole country, the fishermen felt that they had no other possibilities or other recourse but to fight with, you know, the properties and the shipping of the same countries that have been doing and carrying on the fishing piracy and toxic dumping.
Amy Goodman: Can you explain what IUUs are?
Mohamed Abshir Waldo: IUUs are—I don’t remember now, but it’s uninterrupted an unreported fishing, unlicensed, unreported, uncontrolled, practically, fishing. Without [inaudible]—
Amy Goodman: In your article, you say—in your article, you say it stands for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing fleets from Europe—
Mohamed Abshir Waldo: Correct.
Amy Goodman: —and Arabia and the Far East.
Mohamed Abshir Waldo: Correct, correct. And this has been known to both the countries in the West that had these fishing fleets, which included Spain, Italy, Greece, and eventually UK and others who joined later, as well as Russian. And, of course, there were many more from the East. And this problem has been going on since 1991. And the fishing communities and fishermen reported and complained and appealed to the international community through the United Nations, through the European Union, with no, actually, response in any form at all. They were totally ignored.
Amy Goodman: Mohamed Abshir Waldo, explain how what you call “fishing piracy” began.
Mohamed Abshir Waldo: Fishing piracy means fishing without license, fishing by force, even though the community complains, even though whatever authorities are there complain, even though they ask these foreign fishing fleets and trawlers and vessels that have no license, that have no permit whatsoever, when they tell them, “Stop fishing and get out of the area,” they refuse, and instead, in fact, they fight. They fought with the fishermen and coastal communities, pouring boiling water on them and even shooting at them, running over their canoes and fishing boats. These were the problems that had been going on for so long, until the community organized themselves and empowered, actually, what they call the National Volunteer Coast Guard, what you would call and what others call today as “pirates.”
Amy Goodman: So you’re saying illegal fishing is happening off the coast of Somalia. What countries are engaged in it?
Mohamed Abshir Waldo: The countries engaged include practically all of southern Europe, France, Spain, Greece, UK. Nowadays I hear even Norway. There were not many Scandinavians before, but Norwegian fishing now is involved in this, you know, very profitable fishing business. So, there are others, of course. There are Russian. There are Taiwanese. There are Philippines. There are Koreans. There are Chinese. You know, it’s a free-for-all coast.
And to make things worse, we learned that now that the navies and the warships are there; every country is protecting their own illegal fishing piracies—vessels. They have come back. They ran away from the Somali volunteer guards, coast guards, but now they are back. And they are being protected by their navies. In fact, they are coming close to the territorial waters to harass again the fishermen, who no longer have opportunity or possibility to fish on the coast because of the fear of being called pirates and apprehended by the navy, who are at the same time protecting the other side.
So the issue is really a matter of tremendous injustice, international community only attending and talking and coming to the rescue of the—of their interests and not at all considering or looking from the Somalis’ side. This does not mean I am condoning or anyone is condoning piracy or endangering the life of innocent sailors and crews or damaging the property of others, but these people, these fishermen-turned-pirates, had no alternative but to protect themselves, to protect their turf, to—you know, an act of desperation, you might call it.
Amy Goodman: What do people in Somalia feel about the pirates, the issue of pirates off the coast?
Mohamed Abshir Waldo: A mixed reaction, I think, in Somalia. The people do not want the innocent sailors to be harmed. They don’t want any major environmental disasters to happen by blowing up chemical- or oil-carrying vessels. And they urge the pirates, or fishermen pirates, they urge them not to do any such things.
On the other hand, since there’s no sympathy, there’s no understanding, there is no readiness for dialogue with the coastal community, with the community in general, with the Somali authorities or the regional government or the national government on a joint action for solving these problems, then it’s each for his own way of doing. But the people are very concerned. On the one hand, they would like this to be resolved peacefully; on the other, they feel very sad for injustice being done by the international community.
Amy Goodman: A little more on the issue of toxic dumping, if you would, Mohamed Abshir Waldo. I don’t think people in the United States understand exactly what it is you’re referring to and how it affects people.
Mohamed Abshir Waldo: Well, toxic dumping, industrial waste dumping, nuclear dumping, as you are probably aware and have heard and many people know, for quite some time, in the ’70s mainly, in the ’80s, in the ’90s, there was a lot of waste of all these kinds that companies wanted to get rid of, following very strict environmental rules in their countries. So where else to take but in countries in conflict or weak countries who could not prevent them or who could be bought? So these wastes have been carried to Somalia. It’s been in the papers. It has been reported by media organizations like Al Jazeera, I think, like CNN. Many had reported about the Mafia, Italian Mafia, who admitted it, dumping it in Somalia for quite some time, for quite a long time.
And as we speak now, I heard yesterday, in fact, another vessel was captured in the Gulf of Aden by community—this time not pirates, by the community, when the suspected it, and it was carrying two huge containers, which it dumped into the sea when they saw these people coming to them. They have been apprehended. The vessel had been apprehended. Fortunately, the containers did not sink into the sea, but they are being towed to the coast. And this community has invited the international community to come and investigate this matter. So far, we don’t have action. So this dumping, waste dumping, toxic dumping, nuclear waste dumping has been ongoing in Somalia since 1992.
Amy Goodman: When I read your article, Mohamed Abshir Waldo, it reminded me of a controversial memo that was leaked from the World Bank—this was when Lawrence Summers, now the chief economic adviser, was the chief economist at the World Bank—in which it said, “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable, and we should face up to that. I’ve always thought that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly under-polluted.” He said he was being sarcastic.
Mohamed Abshir Waldo: Actually, the more formal official concerned with this UN habitat has also confirmed in various reports that this has been dumped in Somalia. The special representative of the Secretary-General, Ould-Abdullah, who is now working with the Somali authorities, has also, I think, made a statement to that effect. So it is very well known. It’s not something hidden. It’s not something we are making up. The world knows, but it doesn’t do anything about it.
Amy Goodman: Mohamed Abshir Waldo, thank you for joining us, a consultant in Kenya, speaking to us from Mombasa.
You Are Being Lied to About PiratesJohann Hari, Columnist, London Independent
Posted April 13, 2009
Who imagined that in 2009, the world's governments would be declaring a new War on Pirates? As you read this, the British Royal Navy - backed by the ships of more than two dozen nations, from the US to China - is sailing into Somalian waters to take on men we still picture as parrot-on-the-shoulder pantomime villains. They will soon be fighting Somalian ships and even chasing the pirates onto land, into one of the most broken countries on earth. But behind the arrr-me-hearties oddness of this tale, there is an untold scandal. The people our governments are labeling as "one of the great menace of our times" have an extraordinary story to tell -- and some justice on their side.
Pirates have never been quite who we think they are. In the "golden age of piracy" - from 1650 to 1730 - the idea of the pirate as the senseless, savage thief that lingers today was created by the British government in a great propaganda-heave. Many ordinary people believed it was false: pirates were often rescued from the gallows by supportive crowds. Why? What did they see that we can't? In his book Villains of All nations, the historian Marcus Rediker pores through the evidence to find out. If you became a merchant or navy sailor then - plucked from the docks of London's East End, young and hungry - you ended up in a floating wooden Hell. You worked all hours on a cramped, half-starved ship, and if you slacked off for a second, the all-powerful captain would whip you with the Cat O' Nine Tails. If you slacked consistently, you could be thrown overboard. And at the end of months or years of this, you were often cheated of your wages.
Pirates were the first people to rebel against this world. They mutinied against their tyrannical captains - and created a different way of working on the seas. Once they had a ship, the pirates elected their captains, and made all their decisions collectively. They shared their bounty out in what Rediker calls "one of the most egalitarian plans for the disposition of resources to be found anywhere in the eighteenth century." They even took in escaped African slaves and lived with them as equals. The pirates showed "quite clearly - and subversively - that ships did not have to be run in the brutal and oppressive ways of the merchant service and the Royal navy." This is why they were popular, despite being unproductive thieves.
The words of one pirate from that lost age - a young British man called William Scott - should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: "What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirating to live." In 1991, the government of Somalia - in the Horn of Africa - collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.
Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."
At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish-stocks by over-exploitation - and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea-life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia's unprotected seas. The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."
This is the context in which the men we are calling "pirates" have emerged. Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least wage a 'tax' on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia - and it's not hard to see why. In a surreal telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, said their motive was "to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters... We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas." William Scott would understand those words.
No, this doesn't make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters - especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But the "pirates" have the overwhelming support of the local population for a reason. The independent Somalian news-site WardherNews conducted the best research we have into what ordinary Somalis are thinking - and it found 70 percent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence of the country's territorial waters." During the revolutionary war in America, George Washington and America's founding fathers paid pirates to protect America's territorial waters, because they had no navy or coastguard of their own. Most Americans supported them. Is this so different?
Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our nuclear waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We didn't act on those crimes - but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 percent of the world's oil supply, we begin to shriek about "evil." If we really want to deal with piracy, we need to stop its root cause - our crimes - before we send in the gun-boats to root out Somalia's criminals.
The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know "what he meant by keeping possession of the sea." The pirate smiled, and responded: "What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor." Once again, our great imperial fleets sail in today - but who is the robber?
Captain freed after snipers kill piratesOther pirates vow to retaliate after daring operation by Navy SEALsNBC News and news services
April 13, 2009
MOMBASA, Kenya - In a daring high-seas rescue, U.S. Navy SEAL snipers killed three Somali pirates and freed the American sea captain who had offered himself as a hostage to save his crew.
The operation was a victory for the world's most powerful military but angry pirates vowed Monday to retaliate.
Those threats raised fears for the safety of some 230 foreign sailors still held hostage in more than a dozen ships anchored off the coast of lawless Somalia.
"From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill them (the hostages)," Jamac Habeb, a 30-year-old pirate, told the Associated Press from one of Somalia's piracy hubs, Eyl. "(U.S. forces have) become our No. 1 enemy."
News of Capt. Richard Phillips' rescue caused his crew in Kenya to break into wild cheers and brought tears to the eyes of those in Phillips' hometown of Underhill, Vt., half a world away from the Indian Ocean drama. A statement from Phillips' wife Andrea was read at a news conference in Vermont on Monday. She said the hardest part for her was not knowing what her husband was enduring. She said she is proud of her husband and thanks everyone for giving her "the strength to be strong for Richard."
In Washington, President Barack Obama on Monday said Phillips' "safety has been our principal concern."
In a sharp warning to pirates off Somalia, Obama added: "I want to be very clear that we are resolved to halt the rise of piracy in that region and to achieve that goal, we're going to have to continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks."
"We have to continue to be prepared to confront them when they arise, and we have to ensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes," the president said.
Earlier Monday, six mortar shells were fired toward the airport in the Somali capital of Mogadishu as a plane carrying a U.S. congressman took off, an airport employee at the control tower said.
New Jersey Democrat Donald Payne had met with Somalia’s president and prime minister for a one-day visit to discuss piracy and security issues. The airport staffer said Payne’s plane took off safely and none of the mortar shells landed in the airport.
Phillips' whereabouts? Meantime, Pentagon sources told NBC News that the current plan is to reunite Phillips with his 19-man crew from the Maersk Alabama in the Kenyan city of Mombassa.
Phillips is still on the U.S. Navy ship Boxer, and it's not clear exactly when he will be take to the Kenyan port city. Pentagon officials say there's no concern over Phillips security despite pirates threats to seek retribution.
From Mombasa, it's believed Phillips and his crew will fly back to the United States aboard a plane chartered by Maersk Line Lmtd., which owns the Alabama.
The stunning resolution to a five-day standoff came Sunday in a daring nighttime assault in choppy seas after pirates had agreed to let the USS Bainbridge tow their powerless lifeboat out of rough water.
Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said Phillips, 53, was tied up and in "imminent danger" of being killed because a pirate on the lifeboat held an AK-47 assault rifle to the back of his head.
In an interview with NBC's TODAY show, Gortney said it took only three shots to kill the three pirates.
Interviewed Monday from Bahrain, Gortney said the take-down happened shortly after the hostage-takers were observed by sailors aboard the USS Bainbridge "with their heads and shoulders exposed."
Gortney described the snipers as "extremely, extremely well-trained." He said the firing by the snipers was ordered by the captain of the Bainbridge after the pirates "exposed themselves" to attack.
U.S. Defense officials said snipers got the go-ahead to fire after one pirate held an AK-47 close to Phillips’ back. Two other pirates popped their heads up out of the lifeboat, giving snipers three clear targets from the Bainbridge, one official said.
Military officials Monday described the snipers' operation as remarkable — firing at a small lifeboat 25 yards away at night and from the stern of a ship on rolling waters.
The SEALS arrived on the scene by parachuting from their aircraft into the sea, and were picked up by the Bainbridge, a senior U.S. official said.
A fourth pirate surrendered after boarding the Bainbridge earlier in the day and could face life in a U.S. prison. He had been seeking medical attention for a wound to his hand and was negotiating with U.S. officials on conditions for Phillips' release, military officials said.
In a move that surprised the pirates, the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama had put up a fight Wednesday when pirates boarded the ship. Until then, Somali pirates had become used to encountering no resistance once they boarded a ship in search of million-dollar ransoms.
Escalation on the high seasYet Sunday's blow to their lucrative activities is unlikely to stop pirates from threatening one of the world's busiest shipping lanes, simply because of the size of the vast area stretching from the Gulf of Aden and the coast of Somalia.
In fact, some say it may provoke retaliatory attacks against other hostages.
"This could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it," said Gortney, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
A Somali pirate agreed.
"Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying," Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the Somali town of Gaan, told The Associated Press on Monday. "We will retaliate (for) the killings of our men."
As dramatic as each hijacking is, Somali pirates still have only attacked a small fraction of the 20,000 ships that pass through the Gulf of Aden each year. Going around Africa to bypass the pirate-infested gulf can rack up massive costs and add up to two weeks to the voyage.
The drama surrounding Phillips and his ship — the first American taken hostage in the Gulf of Aden — has made headlines around the world, pitting a lone captain held by pirates on a tiny, drifting boat surrounded by U.S. warships.
The pirates still hold about a dozen ships with more than 200 crew members, according to the piracy watchdog International Maritime Bureau. Hostages are from Bulgaria, China, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, the Philippines, Russia, Taiwan, Tuvalu and Ukraine, among other countries.
Vilma de Guzman, whose husband is one of 23 Filipino sailors held hostage since Nov. 10 on chemical tanker MT Stolt Strength, feared Phillips' rescue may endanger the lives of other hostages.
"The pirates might vent their anger on them," she said. "Those released are lucky, but what about those who remain captive?"
She also criticized world media for focusing so much on the U.S. captain but giving little attention to other hostages.
Phillips was not hurt in several minutes of gunfire Sunday and the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet said he was resting comfortably on a U.S. warship after receiving a medical exam.
Aboard the Bainbridge, sailors passed along a message from Andrea Phillips to her husband: "Richard, your family loves you, your family is praying for you, and your family is saving a chocolate Easter egg for you, unless your son eats it first."
Phillips himself deflected any praise.
"I'm just the byline. The real heroes are the Navy, the SEALs, those who have brought me home," Phillips said by phone to Maersk Line Limited President and CEO John Reinhart.
With news of the rescue, Phillips' 17,000-ton ship, which docked with his 19 crew members Saturday in Mombasa, Kenya, erupted into wild cheers. Some waved an American flag and one fired a bright red flare in celebration.
"We made it!" said crewman ATM Reza, pumping his fist in the air.
Captain 'absolutely elated' Chief mate Shane Murphy said he spoke to Phillips by telephone Monday. “He’s absolutely elated and he could not be prouder of us for doing everything we were trained to do,” Murphy said.
The ship had been carrying food aid bound for Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda when the ordeal began Wednesday hundreds of miles off Somalia's eastern coast. As the pirates clambered aboard and shot in the air, Phillips told his crew to lock themselves in a cabin and surrendered himself to safeguard his men.
Phillips was then taken hostage in an enclosed lifeboat that was soon shadowed by three U.S. warships and a helicopter. Phillips jumped out of the lifeboat Friday and tried to swim for his freedom but was recaptured when a pirate fired into the water, according to U.S. Defense Department officials.
The surviving fourth pirate was in military custody, but FBI spokesman John Miller said that would change as the situation became "more of a criminal issue than a military issue."
Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said his country had not received any request from the United States to try the captured pirate, but would "consider it on its own merit."
When the United States captured pirates in 2006, Kenya agreed to try them. Ten pirates were convicted and are serving prison sentences of seven years each.
Worried residents of Harardhere, another Somali pirate stronghold, gathered in the street Monday to discuss possible repercussions.
"We fear that any revenge taken by the pirates against foreign nationals could bring more attacks from the foreign navies, perhaps on our villages," Abdullahi Haji Jama, a clothing store owner, told the AP by telephone.
Somali Pirates Heroes in Their Home TownsBy Bob Ewing
Published Nov 20, 2008
The Somalia pirates may be a scourge in the Gulf of Aden but in their home town they are spending money and building the local economy.
The Somalia pirates who are seizing ships are using the ransom money to build sprawling stone houses, buy luxury cars, marrying beautiful women and even hiring caterers to prepare Western-style food for their hostages.
In an impoverished country where every public institution has crumbled, they are the only real business in town. They have become heroes in the coastal towns from which they operate, because "The pirates depend on us, and we benefit from them," said Sahra Sheik Dahir, a shop owner in Harardhere, the nearest village to where a hijacked Saudi Arabian supertanker carrying $100-million (U.S.) in crude was anchored yesterday.
These boomtowns stand out in stark contrast in light of Somalia's violence and poverty: radical Islamists control most of the country's south, meting out lashings and stonings for accused criminals.
There, life expectancy is just 46 years; a quarter of children die before they reach the age of 5. However, northern coastal towns like Harardhere, Eyl and Bossaso are an exception and the pirate economy is thriving thanks to the money pouring in from pirate ransoms, which have reached $30-million this year alone.
"There are more shops, and business is booming because of the piracy," said Sugule Dahir, who runs a clothing shop in Eyl.
"Internet cafés and telephone shops have opened, and people are just happier than before."
In Harardhere residents celebrated as the looming oil ship came into focus this week off the country's lawless coast. Businessmen gathered cigarettes, food and cold bottles of orange soda as they set up kiosks for the pirates who come to shore to resupply almost daily.
Ms. Dahir has started a layaway plan for them.
"They always take things without paying and we put them into the book of debts," she said in an interview. "Later, when they get the ransom money, they pay us a lot."
"Regardless of how the money is coming in, legally or illegally, I can say it has started a life in our town," said Shamso Moalim, a 36-year-old mother of five in Harardhere.
Blackwater We'll Fight Somalia's PiratesBy Noah Shachtman
October 16, 2008 analysts and the Somali government are publicly flirting with the idea of hiring mercenaries to stop the pirates that are terrorizing east Africa. Now, the notorious guns-for-fire at Blackwater are responding to the call, with a resounding arrrr!!!!!
"Blackwater Worldwide today announced that its 183-foot ship, the McArthur, stands ready to assist the shipping industry as it struggles with the increasing problem of piracy in [Somalia's] Gulf of Aden," the firm says in a statement. "As a company founded and run by former Navy SEALs, with a 50,000-person database of former military and law enforcement professionals, Blackwater is uniquely positioned to assist the shipping industry."
Somali pirates have hit commercial vessels 100 times, just in this year. The U.S. Navy and its allies have admitted than they don't have a big enough fleet to ensure every ship's safety. So ship owners are now reaching out to Blackwater for protection, according to Executive Vice President Bill Matthews.
It's not eactly a brand-new idea. Mercenaries have been battling pirates for a good eight centuries, off and on. Back in 2005, the Somali government tried to hire a U.S. security contractor for maritime protection -- only to have the company fall victim to scandal. This June, there were conflicting reports that a French security outfit had won a $150 million deal to take the American firm's place. One U.S. admiral even joined in the pirate-fighting mercenary chorus, allegedly. But it "raises more legal issues than anyone could possibly count."
Meanwhile, Blackwater is looking for new income streams, as its business protecting diplomats and executives in Iraq looks increasingly fragile. Blackwater employees are protecting missile interceptors in Japan, schooling Taiwan's secret police, and rescuing blondes in Kenya. The company is assembling a private fleet of airplanes, helicopters, and spy blimps. And let's not forget about Blackwater's work after Katrina in New Orleans. Maybe the company will get a chance to follow up another mess.