Topic: Ransom
August 7th-14th 2012

FGS Sachsen, part of EU NAVFOR’s Operation Atalanta
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 for MV Orna arrives in Mogadishu

MV Orna
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
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
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.


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.


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

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

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

Investors Want Their Share, Seize Hostages and Vessel
MV Albedo
MV Albedo

A week after Somali pirates released seven of the 21 crew of the hijacked MV ALBEDO, Somalia Report has learned that pirate commanders and investors are fighting over the ransom.

On July 31st of this year, pirates released seven Pakistani crew members who had been held over 20 months after receiving $1.2 million in ransom. Since then, pirate investors demanded $700,000 of the take to be used for reinvesting while the remaining $500,000 was to be divided to the all members including commanders, investors and Ilaalo group, as well as negotiators from Himan and Heeb administration, according to pirates who spoke to Somalia Report.

But the pirate commanders, led by Guushaaye, refused to hand over $200,000 of the money resulting in a major conflict among the two groups with the hostages and the vessel being used as bargaining chips.

“When the Pakistani crew was released around $1.2 million was paid. Guushaaye and his vice commanders took some of the ransom. Investors requested that most of this money should be used as an investment to hold another crew and vessel and all members must take only a small amount of money. Investors like Huseen Hamarow and Ahmed Sayruuq want their money, but the Guushaaye and his allied men took the ransom and divided it among themselves without any plans to reinvest in future operations,” Abdiraham Ali, a pirate from this group, told Somalia Report.

After Guushaaye and his men took the ransom, a group of investors led by Huseen Hamarow and Ahmed Sayruuq attacked Gushaaye's group.

“Investors attacked Guushaaye’s guards and seized the 15 remaining hostages in Camaara village today (Monday). The investors moved back the crew on board the vessel and they put another 20 armed pirates on board to not only guard the hostages but defend against any attempt by Guushaaye's gang to get them. The investors claimed that now they are holding the vessel and Guushaaye and his men can’t come near the it," the pirate told Somalia Report.

"There was gunfire but nobody was injured," added the pirate.

Huseen Hamarow, a pirate from Saleebaan clan, was one of the investors and said he lost thousands of dollars when Guushaaye took the ransom. Ahmed Sayruuq, also from the Saleeban clan, was the khat (a narcotic stimulant leaf) dealer for the group and also provided food for the pirates. The ransom from the Pakistanis was meant, he claimed, to help pay for his expenses in supplying the pirates.

Sources from the group added that the 15 hostages are doing well given the circumstances after spending the last several weeks in Camaara-village.

Guushaaye and his gang left Ceel-Huur and went to cities in central Somalia to spend the money, and most recently arrived in Cadaado district of Himan and Heeb in the Galgaduud region.

The investors also added that they will release the remaining crew members country by country if their relatives contact them and a ransom can be negotiated.

The 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.

Of the original 23 hostages initially seized in the hijacking, one died during captivity. The seven Pakistanis have been released and pirates claim to be holding 15 others - seven Bangladeshis, six Sri Lankans, one Indian and Iranian.

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

One group of pirates double crosses another and escapes with ransom
By JD 07/19/2012
FV Shiuh Fu No.1
FV Shiuh Fu No.1

After a lengthy investigation, Somalia Report has discovered an interesting twist in the release of the Taiwanese fishing vessel, the Shiuh Fu No.1, on Tuesday.

Following reports from the Taiwanese government that the boat had been released after successful ransom negotiations, Somalia Report contacted pirate sources who expressed surprise at the news of the vessel's release. It would appear that the pirate gang split during negotiations and the final process was far from normal as far as these things go.

The group of pirates who remained on board the vessel, including the translator other pirates who had used the boat as a mother ship, the Ilaalo (guards) group who protected the ship and their commander, Heeryo, apparently agreed to accept a ransom of $3 million. They then released the vessel without informing pirate commanders or the investors on land.

"It (the boat) returned to Dhinooda village on July 8th, and the vessel was damaged by winds. The Ilaalo group and other pirates led by Cali Jeero cheated us. They took the ransom and released the vessel without telling us," Mohayadin Ali, a pirate investor from the group told Somalia Report.

"After they took the ransom, they landed in Harardhere with speed boats and went to Mogadishu. We heard that they took $3 million. They broke our deal so now we are hunting them. They are 16 armed pirates from the Salebaan and Sacad clans," Mohayadin Ali added.

The original pirate group was made up of men from the Fatxi group from the Hawiye clan along with pirates from the Majerteen and Dir clans who were based in Hobyo. The vessel was released between Dhinooda and Ceel-Dhanaane.

The investors and other pirates who are now seriously out of pocket blame the Ilaalo commanders, Shariif and Heeryo, two pirates from the Sacad clan, who they claim took the ransom and escaped to southern Somalia.

Sources in the area added that the investors and commanders of this group are actively hunting the men who cheated them. Whilst infighting between pirates is hardly new, this is the first time one group has openly cheated another in such a manner. Conflicts like this can lead to deadly clashes in the region, as has been seen in the past.

The FV Shiuh Fu No.1 was held by pirates for 19 months and was the subject of several failed negotiations before this week's successful release. The vessel was hijacked on December 25, 2010, approximately 120 nautical miles off the north east tip of Madagascar and had a crew complement of 26 (13 Chinese, 12 Vietnamese and one Taiwanese). She had been the subject of several stories, from being used as a mother ship to the horrific report that pirates had amputated the arm of her Captain, Chao-I Wu. Somalia Report has been unable to establish whether that story was indeed true at this stage.

Somalia Report will monitor the current twist in the tale of the FV Shiuh Fu No.1 and will bring you further details as they emerge.

One Ship, Three Different Stories
MV Iceberg
MV Iceberg

Once again, conflicting reports are circling around the release of the MV Iceberg, hijacked by Somali pirates on March 29, 2010 near the port of Aden, giving it the distinction of being the longest held vessel.

In the first story, relatives of the seafarers this week said the MV Iceberg and her crew of 23 are due to be released by mid-July.

"We have been told it will happen in July," the father of a captured sailor told The National. "I have not spoken to my son in more than a year. I constantly worry about his health and condition. We just want them to be free and that's all we are working towards."

The second and official version is that nothing is happening and something is happening. The Indian high commissioner, Ghana high commissioner and Yemeni diplomatic officials in Nairobi told Somalia Report they have not heard anything about the potential release of the vessel. The Indian Ambassador to Dubai, however, repeated the relatives claims.

"They have negotiated," said MK Lokesh, the Indian ambassador to the UAE told The National. "Our hope is there will be a resolution by mid-July. We have requested the ship owners find an early solution."

In the third version, pirates today told Somalia Report the ransom negotiations have concluded and they are on standby aboard the vessel awaiting ransom amounting to US$ 6 million. The pirates added they have increased the number of gunmen in and around the vessel to protect the ransom money handlers.

There are however, two reasons the release may take longer than the relatives believe. Frist, the pirates said they are holding the captives on land and will need to get them back on the vessel while dodging anti-piracy patrols. The vessel is also damaged and part of it is out of water and repairs are unlikely anytime soon.

Thoughout the 27 months in captivity, rumors and drama have centered around the Panama flagged vessel from confusion over ransom drops, to claims of the Iceberg carrying toxic chemicals, to the death of a crewman and total abandonment by the shipowner. Somalia Report breaks down the claims and timeline.

Death of a Crewman

The crew was originally made up of 24 members, but one reportedly died seven months into the ordeal. The remaining crew of 23 are made up of eight Yemeni, six Indians, four Ghanains, two Sudanese, two Pakistani and one Filipino.

On October 27, 2010 the Yemeni 3rd Officer of the vessel reportedly died of malnutrition. Crew members told Somalia Report that the deceased crewman began to suffer psychological problems during his time in captivity and jumped overboard.

The body was retrieved and was being kept in a freezer on the vessel. The crew reported the matter to the ship owner, but the owner just gave instructions to take the body off the vessel.

By February 22, 2011 a German naval ship with the designation "F804" came alongside to render aid and remove the cadaver which was - by then - being stored in the cold locker without electricity. The ship was was warned off by the pirates.

Three of the remaining 23 crew members on the vessel were also suffering similar conditions, the crew members said at the time. It is unknown if this remains the case two years later.

Missing Crewman

The chief engineer was abducted on February 9, 2011 by his captors and taken to an unknown destination. The second engineer of the vessel, Francis Koosom, told Somalia Report that the chief engineer was taken by heavily armed men to an unknown destination ashore.

“We are very worried because early this week our captors gave us 48 hours saying that they will execute us if the ship owner isn’t going to pay them ransom money to secure for our freedom by yesterday evening,” Koomsom told Somalia Report at the time of the incident.

There has not been an update on the whereabouts of the crewman.

Confusion Over Ransom

Throughout the last two years, there have been countless ransom demands accompanied by more high-seas drama.

In April 2011 the pirates sent a mobile phone video to an Indian news station to force negotiations claiming the murder of the crew member and sickness on board.

After little success, the pirates told the owner not to contact them until he had the ransom. After a lapse of months with no contact the owner brought in former TFG Defense Minister General Naji to help negotiate. The ransom was reduced to $3 million but the company only counter offered with $300,000. Negotiations were cut off by the pirates.

In early September 2011 the pirates originally demanded $10 million dollars which by any standard is unreleastic. This put the negotiation with the Yemeni owner based in Dubai in peril. Predictably the negotiations faltered. The pirates then began contacting and terrorizing the families of crew members in Ghana, Yemen and India and making threats and demand including 48 hour deadlines to kill the crew unless the ransom was paid. A Ghanaian crew member who spoke to Richard Mensah at Citi News:

“After two months of our capture, our provisions got finished and they supplied us with flour, rice and sugar. We are all accommodated in a small cabin and we sleep close to each other, there is a gunman at the window and another at the entrance and before you go out you ask permission at gun point. What we are going through is more than brutality.

“What we receive from them is starvation; in fact the water we drink is very bad. At a point all the water got finished and we had to drink from the drips of the air conditioner. In fact we are going through hell here, what we are going through is more than hell. The pirates say their ransom is ten million dollars but from our point of view even if we give them 400,000 dollars they will take.

“They have given us a 48 hour deadline that if we don’t come up with anything reasonable they will kill some of us and sink the vessel. I am appealing to the Ghanaian authority that they should do something to save our lives because our treatment here is inhuman,” he said.

By late September, the pirates demanded $8 million in ransom and claimed that the health of crew was deteriorating due to the secret chemicals the vessel is carrying, according one of the pirates holding the vessel who spoke Somalia report by phone.

MV Iceberg Hostage
MV Iceberg Hostage

“The health situation of the crew is very serious. First there were 24 crew and one died last February. The 23 that remain are in poor condition due to the poison from the chemicals on the ship," said Aadan, a self-declared pirate spokesman who uses only his first name, while on a board the vessel.

“We are demanding $8 million since this vessel is carrying chemical materials. When we hijacked this vessel the owner of the vessel ordered the crew to exit the vessel because the owner doesn’t want the world to know his vessel is carrying chemical materials," said the pirate.

Although the pirate could not identify the type of chemicals, he explained to Somalia Report that the crew "can't take food well and are losing weight. They are in pain."

Other reports indicated the vessel is officially carrying machinery bound for the United Arab Emirates.

Over the last two years, there have also been several false reports about the ship being released, including one in October 2011.

“We are still on the vessel. We heard the international media published stories that the MV Iceberg was released, but we are not close to releasing this vessel. Right now we don’t care about the crew's situation. We are just holding them and the vessel until we will get our demanded ransom,“ a spokesman of the pirate group, Aden, told Somalia Report at the time.

Crew members then sent out a distress call asking for help. A Ghanaian crew member Francis Koomson told Somalia Report in October 2011 that their vessel was taking in water and the engine room was flooding. He said they had contacted Mombasa Maritime Rescue Coordination Center for assistance.

“We need water, medicine, diesel and food. Things are very bad here, we need urgent assistance,” he pleaded.

By December 2011, the pirates said they were moving some of the extremely ill hostages to land.

Ship Facts

Launched in 1976, the MV Iceberg is owned by Azal Shipping run by Mr. Yassir Amin. The vessel is a Ro/Ro carrying 4,500 tons of liquid natural gas cylinders, shipped from the oil port in Little Aden run by Aden Refinery Company. She was bound for Jebel Ali in the UAE when hijacked only ten nautical miles out of the port of Aden.

The shipowner said the MV Iceberg was laden with generators, transformers and empty fuel tanks for British power rental company Aggreko International Power Projects.

Swedish filmmaker Neil Bell is finishing an 80 minute documentary on the plight of the MV Iceberg and the pirates for Rabotat films. If the trailer is indicative of the rest of the film it will be riveting. The pirates kept a crew of 33 guards on board but have given up and reduced the guard to six men.

The surviving Yemenis on board are captain Abdulrazag Ali Saleh, engineer Mohamed Abdullah Ali Khan and sailor Ahmed Fayz Bair. All of the officers have been beaten and badly abused according to a eye witness aboard the ship.

The financier of the pirates who captured this ship is Mr. Aden Abdirahman Ismail (Aden Sanjab) and the commander of the pirates holding the MV Iceberg is Ayub Yusuf, both of the subclan of Reer-Aden/Omar-Mohamud/Majerten.

In another twist a former Somali translator and a former negotiator who was on board the ship for an extended time both allege that the real owner of the ship is a Yemeni named Saeed Mohamed Qali who is currently held in Guantanamo Bay that Azad operates as a front.

Azal Shipping & Cargo
P.O. BOX 29400
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Tel: +971-4-2585919
Fax: +971-4-2585929