Topic: Piracy
Exclusive
First Intentional Murder of Syrian Crew by Pirates To Speed Up Ransom Payment
09/01/2012
MV Orna
EU NAVFOR
MV Orna

Somali pirates holding the MV Orna, hijacked on December 20th, 2010, have told Somalia Report that they have killed a Syrian and wounded another to force payment of the ransom. Pirates have often threatened to kill crew members and a number of crew members have died while in captivity but this is the first time since 2007 that a murder has been used as a negotiating tactic by pirates. Pirates killed four Americans aboard the SV Quest but this is not known if this was a negotiating tactic or part of a botched raid.

In 2011 35 mariners have died typically during escape attempts or rescues. Back in 2007 a Tawainese crewmember of a Taiwanese fishing vessel was shot by pirates when ransom demands were not met. The ship was eventually rescued by the US Navy.

Crewmembers have died or committed suicide by jumping overboard but investors have been careful not to break the piracy business model. A loose but tacit agreement that money will be paid only for a intact ship, cargo and crew. Crews have been beaten, had their hand cut off and been threatened with violence. Cargos have been looted, ships have been damaged but threats to execute crew or officers have not been carried out during financial negotiations.

It is not known who was killed or wounded or if the crew members were killed in a qat-induced rage or coldly executed to speed up the ransom. There were 18 Syrian nationals and one Sri Lankan on board the Panamanian flagged bulk cargo ship when it was seized 400 nautical miles, northeast of the Seychelles back in December 20th, 2010. The ship was hijacked by pirates operating from two skiffs who fired small arms and RPGs at the vessel during the attack.

At that time Capt Abdul Kadar, the owner of Kasaab Intershipping/Swedish Management/Sirago Ship Management, said the MV Orna was carrying 26,500 tonnes of coal from Durban, South Africa and was enroute to Okha, India, when it was hijacked. Kadar promised to begin negotiations as soon as the ship was berthed offshore Somalia and the pirates made their demands.

The history and fate of the MV Orna has been clouded with confusion.

Last month the pirate group holding the vessel told Somalia Report that negotiations had concluded and that the ransom has now arrived in Mogadishu. Back then they claimed, “This week the ransom for the MV Orna arrived in Mogadishu. It’s about $1.2 million and now that it is in Mogadishu the negotiators are planning to move the money to Mudug or Galmadug region. The pirate group will release the vessel as soon as they have the ransom.”

The ransom negotiations stalled several times, but officials, businessmen and pirates who took part in the negotiation told Somalia Report that the Orna crew were in good health. But back in late 2011 the senior crew members Moaead Wlio, Yahyah Alabsi, and Captain Jawhar said that the situation aboard the vessel was increasingly becoming 'dark and gloomy'. It is common for pirates to convey images of ill health, abuse hostages over the phone and in videos and paint a depressing picture to speed up negotiations. In this case there was plenty of evidence to support Captain Jawhar's complaints, including the painfully long 21 months they have been held as prisoners.

Somalia Report reported that the pirates on board the Orna had threatened to kill the Arab crew back in November of last year but decided not to. The crew of the Orna has been abused by pirates and the owner since then. Captain Jawhar had claimed that the owner had abandoned them and had falsely promised to pay the ransom earlier that summer. Back then the demanded ransom was $2.2 million. A relatively low payment. The MV Orna has had a rather checkered past, having seen service as a pirate mother ship as well as the ship's bridge being heavily damaged by a cooking fire onboard while berthed 18 kms north of Haradhere in June 2011.

In 2011 the officers and crew told Somalia Report that the cargo owners were willing to pay a half of the ransom demanded by the pirates but the ship owner was not being cooperative. The master of the vessel told Somalia Report that the Dubai based ship owner had abandoned the vessel.

Capt. Jawhar said the ship owner was not to be trusted as he had falsely promised to pay the ransom money since July to secure the release of the vessel and her crew.

“We are being treated like wild beasts in the jungle... with no respect at all. We do not have any fresh water, no toilets, and no enough food. We are being given a loaf of bread every day,” they said.

Capt. Jawhar said that the gunmen were demanding to be paid US$2.2 million to secure release of the crew and the vessel. Last month the pirates seemed pleased to receive the much smaller amount but were angered when it never was delivered to the ship.

Exclusive
August 7th-14th 2012
PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS OUR LAST PIRACY REPORT. IF YOU WISH TO HAVE A CUSTOM TAILORED PIRACY AND HOSTAGE REPORT PLEASE CONTACT EDITOR@SOMALIAREPORT.COM

FGS Sachsen, part of EU NAVFOR’s Operation Atalanta
©defensetalk
FGS Sachsen, part of EU NAVFOR’s Operation Atalanta

This week’s quick statistics:

Number of merchant ships held by Somali pirates: 8
Number of hostages held by Somali pirates on land: 28
Number of hostages held by Somali pirates on vessels: 222
Amount paid in ransoms to Somali pirates in 2012: $29.2 million

Pirates have been back in the game trying their luck with two successful dhow hijackings off the Omani coast, an area where the waters have been more favorable for small boats.

On August 11th at around 1800 UTC, pirates hijacked a dhow in position 17.00N-054.00E. The pirates then used this dhow as a mothership from which to launch an attack on a second dhow, which they also hijacked successfully. They then released the first vessel which allowed its crew to report the hijacking.

The second dhow was described as having six persons on board, as well as a yellow cargo crane and small white craft. Naval coalition forces were already pursuing the dhow, following up on the first hijack report.

On the morning of August 13th, the hijacked dhow was sighted by FGS Sachsen, part of EU NAVFOR’s Operation Atalanta. The dhow was heading back towards Somalia, apparently having given up in the face of naval pursuit. A boarding team from HNLMS Rotterdam disrupted the dhow and apprehended the suspected pirates controlling it.

EUNAVFOR lost no time in issuing a press release to announce their catch.

“For the pirates it must have been a strange sight. Not just Rotterdam and FGS Sachsen from the EU Naval Force Somalia (EUNAVFOR) following closely, but also a helicopter and few landing craft ahead making the coast almost impossible to approach,” explained Captain Huub Hulsker, Commanding Officer of HNLMS Rotterdam.

“There was not really anywhere for them to go. Obviously, the main thought is always for the safety of my crew and that of the crew of the dhow. But the situation was clear and some strict orders and two warning shots later, the suspected pirates surrendered. The boarding team was on board and in control of the vessel within the next 20 minutes. A grateful dhow crew, an impressive first action of my whole team early in my deployment and six suspected pirates detained on board, awaiting further decisions - this is a result that counts.”

Press reports suggest that the suspects will be transferred to the Netherlands for trial.

Following up on Somalia Report’s story about two Pakistani former hostages stranded in Mombasa, Kenya, we now understand that the Pakistani High Commissioner to Kenya is preparing travel documents for the men. The sailors, Mohamed Musa Daudi Zada and Dosh Mohamed Ahmed, were rescued by the Royal Danish Navy ship Absalon earlier this year as part of a crew released from a hijacked dhow.

NATO: still quiet on the water

A blog post (yes, NATO’s Task Force 508, or Operation Ocean Shield as it’s also known blogs) on the NATO Operation Ocean Shield Facebook page this week discussed how quiet things were on the water.

“It is quiet on the north coast of Puntland,” NATO said. Citing Ramadan and high temperatures as reasons for the current lack of pirate activity, NATO cautioned that the fight has not yet been won. Did anyone in shipping or maritime security really think otherwise?

Lack of investment and pressure from the authorities in Puntland have all had an impact on piracy in the region. However, it’s fully expected that once the South West monsoon blows itself out, pirates will be back in business. They have suffered a string of unsuccessful attacks and will be even more dogged in their pursuit of merchant and local shipping as a result. NATO appear to be in agreement with that assessment, suggesting that pirates will return to their ‘trade’ with new techniques. We wouldn’t doubt it for a moment, and this week's double dhow hijacking proves that pirates are still eager to play their ‘trade’.

RANSOM NEWS

Ransom for MV Orna arrives in Mogadishu

MV Orna
EU NAVFOR
MV Orna

Somali pirates holding the MV Orna, hijacked on December 20th, 2010, have told Somalia Report that negotiations to free the vessel have concluded and that the agreed ransom has now arrived in Mogadishu.

Payments of ransoms is still considered illegal in Somalia and the secretive arrival of private aircraft, duffel bags of money and close cropped security teams is difficult to ignore. It is assumed that the payment of funds to criminals is now an accepted activity. Oddly enough those who negotiate ransoms for the pirates were sent a clear message from US courts today.

The MV Orna has had a rather checkered past, having seen service as a pirate mother ship as well as being damaged by a fire onboard.

“This week the ransom for the MV Orna arrived in Mogadishu. It’s about $1.2 million and now that it is in Mogadishu the negotiators are planning to move the money to Mudug or Galmadug region. The pirate group will release the vessel as soon as they have the ransom,” a pirate source told Somalia Report.

The ransom negotiations stalled several times, but officials, businessmen and pirates who took part in the negotiation told Somalia Report that the Orna crew were in good health.

The MV Orna and her 25 crewmembers were hijacked by pirates operating from two skiffs who fired small arms and RPGs at the vessel during the attack. The MV Orna is a bulk cargo vessel owned by UAE-based Sirago Ship Management.

If this latest information is correct, then 2012 is shaping up to be a good year for hostage releases and, unfortunately, a good year for pirate ransoms which will surely entail their continued operations at sea as a result.

MV Iceberg 1 talks ongoing

MV Iceberg
EU NAVFOR
MV Iceberg

Negotiations to free the Panama-flagged MV Iceberg 1, held since March 2010, continue, although pirates, the crews’ relatives and ship owners seem unable to agree on how the vessel’s release will take place. The ransom sum has apparently been agreed at $5 million, and the current hiccup seems to revolve around delivery of the money and at what point the ship and crew will then be released.

Somalia Report understands that the crew is in reasonable health although they are thin and weak. The crew is currently being held hostage on land, while only the Ilaalo or guards remain on board the vessel itself. The pirate gang claims the vessel contains chemicals which could be dangerous, however this has never been proven. The MV Iceberg is being held off the coast near Buq village, to the east of Garacad village which is also where pirates are currently holding the Greek-owned, Liberia-flagged MV Free Goddess.

MV Albedo still held by investors

MV Albedo
EU NAVFOR
MV Albedo

As Somalia Report revealed last week, pirates and investors fought over the spoils received when seven Pakistani crew were released for $1.2 million. The vessel is still in the hands of the pirate investors who took control after the pirate commanders from the group effectively ran off with the ransom money.

The latest reports received by Somalia Report state that the remaining crew is being held on board the ship and that there is no sign of any peace between the investors and pirates who took the ransom.

“The investors are still holding the vessel and the pirate commanders including Guushaaye are in Galgaduud region. The other pirate groups and traditional leaders can’t do more because one side of this group come from Mudug region,” a pirate based in Harardhere told Somalia Report.

Guushaaye and his men are believed to be in Cadaado district, in central Galgaduud. Guushaaye and the other commanders disagreed with investors including Hassan Hamarrow and Ahmed Sayruuq, who suggested that the bulk of the $1.2 million ransom received be divided up and then used for other operations.

DEVELOPMENTS ON LAND

MV Albedo ransom scandal?

Apparently, it is not just the pirates holding the MV Albedo who are arguing about the ransom. News emerged this week that the owner of the MV Albedo, Omid Khosrojerdi, an Iranian, accused one of the key negotiators of corruption.

Khosrojerdi has said that Ahmed Chinoy, Citizens Police Liaison Committee chief, lied about the amount of ransom paid to the pirates holding the Albedo. This money led to the release of seven Pakistani hostages at the end of July.

“Mr Chinoy paid only $317,000 to the pirates and not $1.1 million as he claims,” Khosrojerdi told The Express Tribune from Malaysia. Khosrojerdi claimed that this information was relayed to him by the pirates themselves and confirmed by ‘sources’ within the Malaysian Security Council. Somalia Report was told by pirate sources that the ransom was $1.1 million.

Khosrojerdi didn’t put a dime towards the release of the hostages, according to Chinoy. “Omid was ready to bribe certain officials and pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars, but when it came to giving money for the fund, he told me he will not give a single penny,” he said.

The MV Albedo was hijacked by pirates on November 26th, 2010 whilst transiting from Mombasa, Kenya to Jebel Ali, UAE. Negotiations to free her have collapsed on several occasions, until relatives of the Pakistani hostages took matters into their own hands and began to raise money towards the ransom. Khosrojerdi told the press he was now in contact with the pirates to release the rest of the crew. However, given past efforts, Somalia Report suspects that fund raising efforts made by the relatives of the remaining hostages may bear more fruit.

Those left behind

While the freed Pakistani hostages from the MV Albedo rightly enjoy life outside confinement, the thoughts of all at Somalia Report are with the 222 other merchant crew still being held hostage. The parents of Ahmed Kumar, one of the MV Albedo victims, have hit the media, hoping to maintain interest in the ongoing hostage case.

"Three days ago I got a call from my son, who was literally crying. He was saying the pirates are not giving him food and threatening to kill him if their demands of $1 million ransom and release of 61 Somali pirates held by the Indian navy were not accepted," Aman's mother, Pushpa Devi, told the National newspaper.

The MV Albedo is one of the longest running hostages sagas in Somalia but with the ransoming of the Pakistani hostages, it is possible that there may be light at the end of tunnel for the remaining hostages. Provided their relatives can raise the funds. Small wonder, then, that Kumar’s father, army veteran Kewal Krishan, has called upon his government to intervene.

The burden of raising ransoms really shouldn’t fall to families in situations like this, but it may be the only way of guaranteeing the release of their loved ones. It’s an option that has galvanized relatives in other countries to act. The weekend saw two stories emerge where hostage relatives put pressure upon their governments to do more to negotiate their freedom.

In Bangladesh, the families of seven sailors held hostage on the MV Albedo held a press conference to urge the government to raise the $300,000 needed to release their relatives. This sum is required because the owners of the Albedo, Enrich Shipping, cannot afford to pay the whole ransom on their own.

"The seven sailors, including my son, are living in inhumane conditions. They are being given food just good enough to keep them alive," Hossain's mother Majeda Begum said at the briefing.

Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, relatives of the Sri Lankan hostages onboard the Albedo and the lone Lankan held on the MV Orna are making similar efforts to publicize the plight of the hostages. Fund raising efforts are underway but there seems to be little movement from the government.

POLICY NEWS

Kenyan court sentences seven pirates to 20 years

The long-running case against seven Somalis accused of piracy has come to a head in Kenya, with the suspects all receiving hefty sentences. The accused men were named as Barre Ali Farah, Abdi Mohammed, Ali Hussein Hassan, Abdulkarim Nur Shire, Bashir Mohammed Ehmi, Abdulrazak Abdullahi Ali, and Abdulfaruk Hussein Ali who were accused of attempting to hijack a fishing boat off the Gulf of Aden, the Captain St. Vincent. All seven were arrested by Danish naval forces and returned to Mombasa for trial.

During the trial, the defendants' lawyer, Jared Magolo, asked the court to release the men, who have already spent four years in prison awaiting trial. He told the court, “The purpose of any sentence is to reform those who have been convicted. This is one rare case where the trial has achieved what the sentence would have achieved. They have been reformed.”

Magolo further said, “My clients are remorseful. They have vowed to go back to Somali and contribute to the nation building.”

However, Senior Resident Magistrate, Joyce Gandani, made the ruling noting that piracy was an increasing issue and that she hoped the sentences would serve as a deterrent to others considering piracy. Gandani sentenced the men to 20 years each, with the option to appeal the verdict in 14 days.

That’s a long term for an attempted hijacking where no loss of life occurred and the suspects had already spent four years in prison waiting for a trial. The law has always favored commercial interests over those of the citizen and Somalia Report agrees that stiff sentencing is one way to combat piracy. However, 20 years for an unsuccessful hijacking without injury does seem to be somewhat disproportionate and may have more to do with sending a message that Kenya will not tolerate piracy near its shores.

Kenya’s tourist industry has been hard hit by piracy in recent years. Cruise ships, previously a common sight in the region, have now dwindled to a trickle due to the threat of piracy, while high profile kidnappings such as those of Judith Tebbutt and Frenchwoman, Marie Dedieu, who were both taken from popular Kenyan tourist haunts, have certainly impacted tourism in the country.

Australia to spend an additional $2 million (AUS) to fight piracy

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, announced this week that the country would be spending an additional $2 million to strengthen the rule of law in regional states and combat piracy in the Indian Ocean. The extra funds bring Australian anti-piracy spending to more than $4.3 million (Australian dollars) since 2009.

Additionally, Carr announced that he would be extending the secondment of an Australian Federal Police officer to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Exactly how and where the money will be used was sadly not discussed, so we are none the wiser as to whether it will be handed to the UN or spent on local anti piracy projects within Somalia, which might perhaps be a better use of the funds.

Pirates attack Puntland prison

Puntland security forces repelled an attack on Galkayo Central Jail this week, as armed pirates attempted to free some of their comrades scooped up in recent security operations by the Puntland authorities.

The attack saw an unknown number of pirates armed with automatic weapons attack the jail only to be fought off by security forces. Reports suggest two pirates were injured during the unsuccessful assault. It is believed that one of the men picked up in the security operation at the end of July is part of the gang believed to have kidnapped three aid workers last month.

As the monsoon wanes, pirates plan new operations

After several very quiet weeks at sea, Somalia’s pirates are planning new operations against the world’s merchant fleet.

Somalia Report is getting reports that two pirate groups are currently planning new attacks. The gangs are based in Mudug region and one is mixed Hawiye clans led by Warsame Xaashi from the Saleeban clan. This group planned to send three boats out to see on Monday August 13th.

“The group led by Warsame Xaashi are well known pirates from this region. They will use three speed boats with 12 armed men in each boat. They are based in Saax village, between Ceer-Huul and Handulle village,” a pirate from the group told Somalia Report. Handulle village has long been a popular pirate base and was attacked by European Union Naval Force helicopters earlier this year.

The second group of pirates planning new attacks are also based in Mudug region and led by a pirate from the Saleebaan clan.

“Abdi Yare and his group will be using two speed boats with nine well armed pirates in each. They are using Ceel-Gaboode village as a base, which is located south of Handulle near Harardhere,” the pirate source told Somalia Report.

As mentioned earlier in the report, pirates claim that the monsoon and a lack of investors are behind the recent quiet spell. “If there are strong storms and strong winds at sea, no one will send their men. Also, there are no good investors and pirates aren’t getting good money in the last few months,” a pirate source told Somalia Report.

“Also at this time pirates don’t have many good boats which can be used as mother ships. When you have a good number of mother ships, you can do more operations,” the pirate continued.

This week’s hijacking of two dhows would suggest that pirates are indeed looking for new platforms from which to launch attacks.

Negotiator Shibin given 12 life sentences

Shibin
©L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot/AP
Shibin

Mohammad Saaili Shibin made the mistake of negotiating the potential ransoming of American hostages aboard the SV Quest. He was arrested by Puntland authorities and flown to Djibouti where US agents picked him up. Shibin was featured in a UN report and had been involved in a number of successful ransom negotiations. Pirates typically rely on English speaking and somewhat educated interlocutors to bring the highest price for their captives. Although a number of well intentioned Somali's had intervened without pay or malice, Shibin was part of a new breed of go between. When he got the call for the SV Quest he had no idea the amount of violence that was about to be dealt the American hostages. It was in fact, FBI negotiators who were flown to US warships that attempted to negotiate the freedom of the Americans and when the pirates became skittish the captives were killed.

Shibin was involved in piracy, even though he was not aboard the ship nor was he involved in the initial hijack. No ransom was paid.

This case was clearly a soapbox for the USG beginning with the slightly fudged FBI press release and all the way to the draconian sentence of a Somali who never actually pirated a ship but had the misfortune to speak English. Even the judge in the case told Shibin he was lucky he was not up for the death sentence. Even though there is no death charges against him. Shibin was elevated to the "highest ranking pirate" in captivity by the USG. The US DOJ gleefully gushed " In April 2011, the Eastern District of Virginia set a new first in piracy prosecutions by capturing and charging an alleged pirate in a leadership role – Mohammad Saaili Shibin, a hostage negotiator in Somalia."

After the sentence was handed down the DOJ once again portrayed the case in bombastic terms neglecting to mention that the hostages would have still been alive had they understood the modus operandi of Somali pirates.

"I think this case explodes the myth, if still it exists out there, that pirates are some kind of romantic swashbuckling characters from Hollywood summer movies. This case showed that pirates are brutal, greedy, reckless, desperate criminals who will kidnap, torture and ultimately kill hostages in pursuit of their financial greed," U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said after sentencing.

Shibin was a well known negotiator and part of a criminal conspiracy to deny mariners, ship owners and cargo owners free passage on the ocean. The best the US government could prove was that he made a paltry $30,000 from this criminal actions and neglected to mention that Shibin has never been on the high seas nor has he ever been involved in the boarding of ship or even firing of a weapon. The government officials bragged that this was the 18th pirate they had convicted. A closer examination of the sentence shows that Shibin sentence is ludicrous: Ten concurrent life sentences for piracy and two consecutive life sentences for the use of a rocket propelled grenade and automatic weapons during crimes of violence (Shibin did not hijack the SV Quest but rather did his work by mobile phone and computer). He was given 10 years consecutive on six counts of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, and two 20-year sentences other firearms counts...and ordred to pay $5.4 million in restitution.

in contrast the men who actually boarded the ship and murdered Scott and Jean Adam along with Phyllis Macay and Robert Riggle were simply sentenced to life in prison.

It appears that the sentencing might even have been a way to make good for the bungling the prosecution of another arrested and suspected negotiator. Judge Ellen Huvelle roasted the government prosecution team for 'unbelievably inexcusable behavior' for their attempts to portray Somali Ali Mohamed Ali as a pirate. Ali had actually been invited to come to the US to help the government in their case against pirates and then arrested him for being one when he arrived.

Welcome to Jamal's Pirate Action Group

Finally Reuters is describing what appears to be a hilarious written communication from a Jamal, the head of a pirate group who had snagged an oil tanker. /url]. The written ransom demand is purported to say, "Welcome to the Pirate Action Group. Pirate commander Jamal wishes to congratulate you on being hijacked. Kindly speak to his negotiator about your ransom, bearing in mind that his demands are similar for every vessel he seizes."

Although no details are provided and neither the pirate or ship is named, the article makes for light reading and the right note to end our free weekly piracy report.

If your organization needs custom reporting on pirate activities inside Somalia please contact Editor@SomaliaReport.com

Exclusive
August 1st - 7th 2012
08/07/2012

This week’s quick statistics:

Number of merchant ships held by Somali pirates: 8
Number of hostages held by Somali pirates on land: 28
Number of hostages held by Somali pirates on vessels: 222
Amount paid in ransoms to Somali pirates in 2012: $29.2 million


In this issue:

• Iranian hostages still stranded in Kenya
• Hostage round up
• MSF hostages moved to Kismayo
• Michael Scott Moore moved again, captors still fear rescue attempt
• Relatives of remaining MV Albedo hostages begin ransom efforts
• Despite absence of Puntland Marine Police Force, Puntland continues to pursue pirates
• Transitional Federal Government offers olive branch to pirates
• Dutch shipping companies breaking the law on armed guards
• Seychelles pushes for UN Security Council seat

Another week with nothing to report by way of attacks against merchant shipping on the water. The South West monsoon continues to make itself felt in the Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden and Somali Basin, leaving waters treacherous for small boat traffic.

The Office of Naval Intelligence predicts slightly lighter seas for the coming week, so it will be interesting to see whether pirates are able to take advantage of more favorable conditions to mount attacks after another very dry period.

HOSTAGE NEWS

Hostages and ships held by pirates

No other country on the planet contains as many kidnapped mariners as Somalia. There are countries that have higher rates of kidnapping. For example, Mexico is experiencing a rash of kidnapping and there are yet to be fully documented reports of mass kidnappings by groups like the Lords' Revolutionary Army in Central Africa, but Somalia leads in terrorism-related kidnappings at 2527 in 2011. Many of those were innocent mariners captured aboard ships. Most of those kidnappings could have been prevented by proper security and procedures and many, if not all, could have been resolved by intervention, ransom payment or negotiation.

Mexico accurately tracks kidnapping and many (up to three quarters) go unreported for fear of retaliation or police involvement. In Somalia, the accurate reporting of kidnapping is more a function of bureaucracy and imposed censorship by the media and corporations who fear fallout from publicizing the dilemma.

Since its inception, Somalia Report has been at pains to establish the actual number of hostages held by pirates in Somalia. Official data is supplied by agencies like the International Maritime Bureau, the UN’s International Maritime Organization, NATO Shipping Centre, the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR), UK Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) and guesses by various media agencies who use versions of these statistics.

Why is it that even with their resources, none of these agencies seems able to either agree on an exact figure or, as is more common, simply focus on the seafarers captured with merchant vessels as nameless victims?

Given the number of commercial, pleasure and fishing boats as well as small dhows attacked by pirates each year, Somalia Report took the decision early on to have its stringers and journalists in the country do their best to account for each and every hostage, from dhow crew to fishing boats and land-based kidnap victims using a Search and Rescue type database.

It is critical to know the location, condition, criminal group and motivations behind each sailor’s detention if a cohesive solution is to be found.

Additionally, there is deliberate confusion as to land-based hostages. Some are kidnapped by pirate groups, purchased by al-Shabaab (to allow ransom to be paid since payment to a terrorist organization is illegal). Some kidnaps are based on plain criminal intent (as in the case of journalists or aid workers), some are based on hostage negotiation for captured pirates (as in the case of Indian and South Korean merchant crews who are used as bargaining chips) and some out of necessity. Many small dhow crews are press ganged into operating vessels, further confusing their status.

To add further confusion, many security companies, corporations and governments attempt to censor the communication of the status of kidnap victims using the questionable premise that public knowledge of their fate will "compromise their security". As if local news and their already miserable condition can be erased.

Why the international bodies choose not to either include crews of small vessels is still a relevant question that families and the public should ask. In many cases, Somalia Report has investigated and found that inaction, confusion, financial fear and fear of "bad PR" is often behind attempt to cover up the kidnap victims.

The lack of accurate information and underreporting could also be due to military and NGO bodies not talking to each other.

For example, the military won’t talk to private maritime security. Maritime security does not talk to locals. Insurance companies are trying to reduce the financial pay out and some corporations simply stay mum because they have abandoned both their ship and crew.

Private Maritime Security Contractors are on the front line, recording and collection data as well as identifying potential threats at sea and repelling them. They relay that information back through official channels and get just what back in return? Nothing.

Families contact the media (including Somalia Report) desperate for any news of their loved ones. In a number of cases, they band together to ransom their fathers and relatives because their government absolves themselves of responsibility for their citizens’ security. Many times they point to the flag on the rear of the ship as the one to be held accountable for the ship’s security.

Somalia Report fully understands that often the final moments of a negotiation are sensitive and controlling information is a natural process for the ransom crowd. But among those who have insurance there are dozens who have no way out of their predicament and silence is the ally of inaction.

Official hostage figures from agencies:

EU NAVFOR hostage total: 177 (Merchant crew only)
Vessels held: 7

IMB hostage total: 174
Vessels held: 11

UK MTO hostage total: 191
Merchant crew: 128
Fishing vessel and dhow crew: 39 (approx)
Other crew still held: 17

UK MTO vessel total: 14
Merchant vessels held: 6
Fishing vessels and dhows held: 8

Information via UKMTO Weekly Report, August 4th, not disseminated to public or available online.

It should be noted that this is the only easily available data on hostages in Somalia. Other official agencies either opt to only release it sporadically or do not make it openly available.

Former Pakistani hostages stranded

Two Pakistani sailors, rescued from pirates by forces aboard the Royal Danish Naval ship, HDMS Absalon, have been stranded at Mombasa port police station for six months.

The sailors, Mohamed Musa Daudi Zada and Dosh Mohamed Ahmed, were crew onboard the Iranian fishing vessel, AL SAJAD, which was hijacked by Somali pirates in August 2011. They told Somalia Report that they sailed from a fishing village in Rameen in Iran. Whilst on a fishing trip in the Indian Ocean, they were hijacked by a group of pirates who then used their vessel as a mother ship for five months until the Danes rescued them in February this year.

The owner of the vessel, Haji Sultanpur, has confirmed that the two were in his employ and had family in Iran and Pakistan. Following the rescue of the vessel by HDMS Absalon, the crew was taken to Mombasa in March this year. 14 crewmembers were repatriated to Iran and Pakistan by the Iranian embassy and Pakistani High Commission in Nairobi, but the two Iranians were left behind due to confusion over their identities. Since then, they have been living at the port police station.

During the rescue of the fishing boat, two hostages were fatally wounded by gunfire. It was initially thought that they had been shot by their pirate captors. However a Danish military court recently ruled that both men had likely died as a result of gunfire from soldiers onboard the Absalon. The court further stated that it was unlikely charges would be pressed given the hazardous nature of rescue attempts at sea.

The Danish warship rescued 16 hostages and arrested 17 suspected pirates during the operation in February this year. The two Iranians remain in Mombasa port police station whilst efforts to repatriate them are ongoing. The seafarers are being looked after by the Mombasa port chaplain, Rev. Michael Sparrow of the Mission to Seafarers, friends of seafarers and local well wishers. Musa says that the UN High Commissioners for Refugees is aware of their case and that Kinet Opiyo and James Karanja from UNHCR have been in contact with them.

MSF hostages moved back to Kismayo

Montserrat Serra and Blanca Thiebaut
MSF
Montserrat Serra and Blanca Thiebaut

The mixed group of pirates and militants holding the Spanish aid workers from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Montseratt Serra and Blanca Thiebaut, have moved them back to the port city, Kismayo, pirate sources told Somalia Report. The city is currently al-Shabaab’s hub in the country and is bracing for an allied advance in the coming weeks.

It is believed that the hostages were moved after TFG and AMISOM forces took al-Shabaab controlled areas near where they were being held. Pirate sources added that negotiations to secure the release of the hostages were ongoing and that fear of continued clashes between al-Shabaab and TFG forces. Pirates had hoped to finalize negotiations before the TFG and its allies closed in on their position, but due to the lengthy negotiation process, were forced to move back to Kismayo for security reasons.

Relatives of the MSF hostages arrived in Mogadishu in recently to take part in negotiations facilitated by local businessmen and pirates who were representing the captors.

Following the kidnapping of three Kenyan aid workers, TFG and Puntland security forces have increased patrols in the area, which was another factor in moving the MSF hostages.

Michael Scott Moore on the move

Michael Scott Moore
Michael Scott Moore

Little has been heard of American journalist and pirate hostage, Michael Scott Moore, since pirates released video footage of him. Somalia Report has learned that the gang holding him continue to move him from place to place due to continued fear of a rescue attempt by US Navy SEALs. The pirates are concerned that US forces will mount a raid similar to the one which saw the rescue of Jessica Buchanan and Poul Thisted, the Danish Demining Group hostages rescued in January this year.

Moore was moved to Wisil, near Hobyo in Somalia’s Mudug region this week. Pirate sources told Somalia Report that his captors, led by pirate leader Ali Duulaaye, were on high alert.

Pirate sources told Somalia Report that negotiations to free Moore had stalled and that this had increased pirates’ anxiety. Negotiations between pirates and the company Moore worked for had been ongoing but apparently have hit a bump in the road. Pirate leader, Ali Duulaaye, are not only concerned about a possible rescue attempt by US forces but also possible attack by pirates who lost friends during the rescue of Thisted and Buchanan and may be seeking another hostage prize.

MV Albedo’s Pakistani hostages freed

MV Albedo
EU NAVFOR
MV Albedo

The hijackers behind the capture of Malaysian tanker, the MV Albedo, received a cash injection this week, following the successful ransoming of its Pakistani crewmembers. Somalia Report exclusively revealed their release of the hostages last week for $1.2 million.

After negotiations to release the crew failed four times, pirates moved the hostages to the Camaara area. They then contacted relatives of the hostages who agreed to raise the required ransom. Negotiations to finalize the amount took place and pirates agreed to settle for $1.2 million for the seven Pakistani crew in order to cover expenses.

Pirate sources stated that the negotiations were facilitated by a private company, but pirates would not name them or give further details.

“A private company was involved and officials from Himan and Heeb administration were also involved. But after the crew was released, Himan and Heeb send them to Galka’ayo to Galmudug’s administration to use its airport,” a pirate based in Galmudug region told Somalia Report.

As with previous ransoms, the gang, led by Guushaaye, took the ransom to Ceel-Huur village where it was counted and divided up. The money gives Guushaaye a nice sum to re-invest in further attacks.

“They claim that they will use this money for investment in new operations and holding the MV Albedo, since they will get another ransom for the rest of the crew and the vessel,” Tuur, a pirate based in Harardhere, told Somalia Report.

What next for the remaining MV Albedo crew?

The remaining crew of the Albedo are still being held in Camaara village, and their captors have suggested that if relatives want to individually raise ransom money, the pirates will release the hostages on a piece meal basis. The ship, meanwhile, will remain in pirate hands until the owners pay the ransom demanded for its release.

The remaining hostages, however, continue to be threatened by the captors in a move designed to pressure relatives into raising ransom money for their release.

“The remaining 15 crew are still in Camaara and the gang will release them if they get the ransom. They don’t care who pays it, relatives or the ship owners. They just want money,” a pirate based in Mudug region told Somalia Report.

This is the first time pirates have released hostages following direct negotiations with their relatives rather than via the owners of the ship they crewed. The remaining hostages now have renewed hope of release, but only if relatives or their governments agree to pay the pirates.

DEVELOPMENTS ON LAND

Puntland security operations continue

PMPF Soldier in Eyl
©Somalia Report
PMPF Soldier in Eyl

With the Puntland Marine Police Force now non-operational, pirates have been gradually moving back to their old haunts in Puntland, presumably feeling that they were relatively safe. To his credit, President Farole is doing his best to show pirates that is not the case, with a spate of security operations throughout the region.

This week’s operations led to the arrests of 53 terror and piracy suspects, according to local reports and the Puntland Ministry of Security. A statement from the ministry said that they had rounded up not just al-Shabaab members but interestingly, cohorts of pirate leader, Isse Yulux. Over the last few weeks, Yulux has been building up his base of operations in Puntland and amassing a number of pirates. It would seem that the Puntland authorities are more than willing to continue to harry him as the PMPF did.

Whether these small raids will be enough to up the pressure felt by Yulux and his colleagues is questionable, but it is good to see Puntland continuing the work begun by the PMPF; their efforts made a marked difference to piracy in the region, so any further efforts on land can only be seen as positive.

TFG anti-piracy plans move ahead

Somalia’s Prime Minister, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, announced plans on Tuesday to create a national naval force in order to secure the country’s territorial waters. As well as fighting piracy, the force would be used to ensure an end to illegal fishing, something the country has suffered from significantly over the years.

However, the plans are just that at present; Prime Minister Ali has appeared at several anti-piracy conferences to request international assistance in order for the plans to succeed. According to press reports, Ali said that Somalia wishes to create a highly trained marine force, which would utilize speedboats and warships. Just where those ships would come from, however, are not discussed, and it’s unlikely that any nation would hand over military assets to the country for obvious reasons, including the UN arms embargo. So at present, the plans are just bold plans. Somalia Report will monitor developments.

Sri Lankans raising money for MV Albedo crew

As related earlier in the report, now that pirates have shown themselves willing to negotiate with families of their hostages, the relatives of six Sri Lankan crew being held hostage by pirates have begun trying to raise enough money to ransom them.

There is hope that with the pirates apparently willing to accept $1.2 million for the seven freed Pakistani hostages, they will accept a similar amount for the six Sri Lankans. Speaking to the media, Fatima Farhana, a schoolteacher and the daughter of the ship's second engineer, Segu Mohammed Bisthamy, said: "We don't want them to keep waiting and die there, we must do something."

The relatives hope to raise $1 million and have approached a formal naval officer to act as a mediator in talks. Ahmed Chinoy, leader of the Citizens Police Liaison Committee in Pakistan, who negotiated the release of the Pakistani hostages, has pledged to help, as has the freed Pakistani Captain of the ship, Jawaid Khan.

POLICY NEWS

Amnesty for pirates pondered

Transitional Federal Government President, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, made the news in London this week. In a story picked up by Times newspaper, the President apparently offered pirates a pardon provided the cease their illegal activities.

Campaigning in Balad, in Middle Shabelle region around 36km NE of Mogadishu, the president told a Times reporter, “Those who leave behind what they have done will be forgiven.” Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali stated that pirates would not ‘get away with murder’ but did say the government was prepared to compromise. “The government will make clear that the doors are open, if they want to come in,” President Sharif added.

This sudden offer is interesting in light of recent moves by the TFG to hire current pirates to act as anti-piracy leaders and the brick wall which former pirate, Afweyne, seems to have hit with his attempts to control piracy in the south of Somalia, as Somalia Report revealed in last week’s piracy report.

Has the TFG given up on the idea of turning poachers into gamekeepers or is this simply an opportunistic move to suggest to the wider world that Somalia’s leaders are extremely keen to rid the country of piracy, regardless of what a UN Monitoring Group report might suggest.

St Kitts & Nevis join Washington declaration

St Kitts & Nevis (SKANReg) became the latest flag state to sign up to the Washington declaration this week. The declaration is simply a statement which recognizes that violence against crew members by piracy and armed robbery goes largely unreported. States which sign up are expected to submit better reports of incidents to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in order to improve the information held within their piracy database.

The declaration was inspired by the 2011 Human Cost of Piracy study released by Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP). SKANReg ships have not been immune to the effects of piracy, with two vessels hijacked in the Indian Ocean and one off Cameroon in the last few years. All three were subsequently released, including Blue Star, hijacked in January 2009 off the Somali coast with a cargo of fertilizer. The ship was released in March 2009 for a reported $1 million ransom.

Since its inception, the Washington declaration has proven useful for both OBP and the IMB. This year’s joint OBP/IMB report on the Human Cost of Piracy used a lot of personal information from seafarers about the way they were treated whilst being held hostage and served to highlight their plight in a much more personal way for the report.

Netherlands law-breakers

Despite strict legal controls against their use, a Dutch new site this week suggested that some of its flagged vessels were happily breaking the law and hiring private maritime security contractors (PMSC) for their ships. As Somalia Report has previously stated, Dutch-flagged ships are only supposed to transit with officially sanctioned (and paid for) Dutch military vessel protection detachments. However, it would seem that many cannot wait for that and would rather run the risk of prosecution by hiring private companies.

It is something of a Catch-22 for Dutch shipping companies. On the one hand, its government has again reduced the cost of hiring military guards, but it would seem that the criteria for securing them is either putting companies off or taking too long to work through. Typically, many PMSCs are last minute hires and Somalia Report knows from its contacts in the UK that this was a major issue between UK maritime security companies and the government accreditation and vetting process. Last minute hires and transits are not uncommon in a shipping industry still very much feeling the effects of recession.

Dutch ship owners’ association, KVNR, had pushed for legislation allowing them to use armed guards but were rebuffed by the government. Martin Dorsman, from KVNR, told the press, “No ship sails the coast of Somalia without protection. As long as the military cannot provide this, we will do so ourselves.”

It will be interesting to see whether this leads to any legal action by the Netherlands government.

Seychelles pushes for UN Security Council seat

Ambitious news from the Seychelles this week, where plans emerged for the country to petition the United Nations for a seat on its Security Council.

Despite the small population (just 90,000 people), President Michel feels that the country’s position in the maritime world see it well placed for a UN Security Council seat. The steps taken by the Seychelles to prevent and jail pirates can’t be questioned, nor can the country’s commitment to a piracy-free Indian Ocean.

Whether the United Nations will see things in the same light is open to question. However, we also question the value of such a role to the Seychelles.

Doing the Ali shuffle

Federal prosecutors have been pushing for the return to custody of Ali Mohamed Ali, released into confinement by US District judge Ellen Huvelle last week. As a result, a federal appeals court has agreed to expedite the case.

Clearly refusing to admit when they’re wrong, despite significant legal agreement from learned professors and legal experts, the Department of Justice (DoI) filed emergency papers in the appeals court, arguing that Huvelle’s release order was “in disregard of the significant facts pointing to the flight risks presented by Ali.” It should be noted that the DoJ has something of a track record for this sort of claim. In February of this year, a retired British businessman was extradited to the US amid claims that he had sold batteries to Iran which could have been used in weapons. The 65-year-old, Christopher Tappin, was declared a flight risk and held in chains in jail in El Paso, Texas until April this year when he was finally granted bail.

Friday saw a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals, District of Columbia, unanimously reverse judge Huvelle%u2019s ruling and instruct her to return Ali to custody, pending trial.

The case against Ali would seem flimsy to say the least. However, federal prosecutors clearly want to avoid the embarrassment of losing and would appear happy to push the legal envelope despite loud voices of protest from experts.

Hostages as of Aug 7
Hostages as of Aug 7

Ships held as of Aug 7
Ships held as of Aug 7

FVs held as of Aug 7
FVs held as of Aug 7

Releases as of Aug 7
Releases as of Aug 7

Breaking News
$1.2 Ransom Paid, Pakistanis En-Route to Nairobi
By JD 07/31/2012
MV Albedo
EU NAVFOR
MV Albedo

Seven Pakistani hostages from the Malaysian-flagged container ship, MV ALBEDO, were released today after more than 20 months in captivity following a ransom payment of $1.2 million, according to pirates who spoke to Somalia Report late Tuesday evening.

Pirates who are so close to Guushaaye and his group holding the hostages told Somalia Report that the seven were transferred to Himan and Heeb Administration and then passed to Galmudug officials who are taking them to Galka'ayo to catch a flight to Nairobi, Kenya.

The $1.2 million ransom arrived in Cadaado two days where pirates counted the money. They have since moved to Ceel-Huur village to divide the money among themselves and their investors.

Himan and Heeb administration refused to confirm the handover while Glamudug and Puntland officials both denied involvement in the negotiation. Pirates and officials from the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa militia in Cadaado confirmed the release.

MV ALBEDO, IMO number 9041162 and built in 1993 with a dry weight of 15566 t, is owned by Malaysia-based Enrich Shipping, and was attacked by pirates on November 26, 2010 while underway from Mombasa to Jebel Ali, 293 miles west of the Maldives on the Indian Ocean.

In July 2011, the Malaysian owners told Somalia Report that negotiations to release the vessel had halted, due to the company’s inability to raise the $3.4 million ransom demanded by pirates at the time. Captain Ismail Mohammad stated that the company had even been forced to lay off some employees due to the economic situation the shipping industry was in. “We are currently operating with a skeleton staff,” he told Somalia Report.

The 23 crew members are comprised of Bangladeshi, Iranian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan nationals and there have been several campaigns in recent months in Pakistan petitioning for their release. After increased pressure on the Pakistani government, Pakistani businessman and Chairman of Bahria Town, Malik Riaz, announced that he would be topping up the ransom fund in order to release the vessel and its crew. After an initial ransom demand of $8 million, which the owners were unable to pay, the hijackers reduced the ransom.

Sources told Somalia Report pirates holding the vessel were pushing heavily for a ransom of $5.5 million and are in fear of anti-piracy operations. Isse Yulux, pirate leader, decided to release the vessel after capturing a second ship, the UAE-owned, chemical products tanker, MT Royal Grace, hijacked on March 2nd of this year. Due to financial pressures, the ransom was set at $5.5 million, but his fellow pirates rejected that sum, blaming Yulux for the break in negotiations. Meanwhile, another source close to the pirates claims that they are threatening the hostages in order to speed up the delivery of the agreed ransom.

The vessel has been the subject of numerous false ransom stories in recent months.

Somalia Report is working to independently verify the report and will continue to monitor the situation.

Hundreds of Police Deployed to Stabilize Crime Ridden Galkayo, Pirates Arrested
By JD 07/24/2012
Puntland Forces
©Somalia Report
Puntland Forces

Security forces in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland began massive security operations in Galkayo (Galka’ayo), the capital city of Mudug region today. 'Hundreds' of security forces have been deployed in different phases over the last four days to combat crime and conduct anti-piracy operations, according to local sources and officials who spoke to Somalia Report.

The first convoy of security forces arrived at Puntland’s military bases in northern Galkayo on the first day of Ramadan four days ago.

Although the Puntland officials refused to specify the exact number of troops deployed, officials confirmed that security operations are ongoing against pirates and criminals.

“Yes, Puntland security troops are doing new security operations in the region. We are fighting insecurity and pirates are one our main targets. The government will not allow anything that can cause insecurity - whatever its,” the governor of Mudug Region, Mohamed Yusuf Jama told Somalia Report.

Officials added that at least five pirates were arrested by the Puntland’s security forces during the first phase of the operation.

“The troops already began their operations and at least five pirates were arrested and we are searching for others. The troops are fighting pirates so they will keep at their duty. We hope to stabilize the region,” added the governor.

Initial report said that the five suspects were suspected of kidnapping Kenyan aid workers, but the governor denies that was the case.

“They are not suspected of the kidnapping, but we are looking for those responsible for abducting the Kenyans,” added Mohamed Yusuf.

Galkayo residents confirmed the operations in the city.

“On the city first Ramadan at least a hundred troops arrived and days later another three hundreds arrived. Now there are around four hundreds troops spread throughout the city," Osman Omar, a resident in Galkayo told Somalia Report.

Security Forces Shoot Pirate

In a separate incident during the operations in Galkayo, security forces fought against pirates and two people were killed, including a pirate, according to the governor.

An eyewitness in Galkayo told Somalia Report that fighting began after a pirate refused to stop his car for the security forces.

“The security forces were checking the cars in the streets and they were removing black screens (film) favored by pirates from the windows of cars because of security. One pirate refused to obey the order and they opened fire on each other and the pirate died. Another person was also killed in the incident,” said Saleban Cali, a resident in Galkayo.

Pirates in the region also confirmed this incident and added that they have felt the pressure from Puntland security forces since the first day of Ramadan.

“One pirate died in fighting between security forces and the pirate gangs. Since the troops arrived in the city, the gangs have been faced with more pressure. Mostly pirates in the city went in to southern part of the city because fear from the troops,” Bashiir Warsame, a pirate in Galkayo, told Somalia Report.

Galkayo is a city divided in half with Galmudug controlling the southern side and Puntland controlling the northern side.

Galkayo has been a hotbed of violence and the site of at least three kidnapping cases: two Danish Demining Group employees, one American journalist, and two Kenyan aid workers.

Somalia Report will follow any developments during the ongoing operations.

Breaking News
Hijack Alert
Breaking News
MV Renuar Freed