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Pirates Pressuring Indian Government to Release Somali Pirate Friends
10/28/2011
Somalia Pirates Captured by Indian Navy
Indian Navy
Somalia Pirates Captured by Indian Navy

In addition to hijacking the most lucrative maritime cargo, Somalia pirates are now hunting specifically for Indian seafarers in an effort to pressure the Indian government to release Somali pirates being held in Indian jails. To increase the odds, the pirates are searching for Indians among the nearly 300 sailors already being held hostage on various hijacked ships and on land.

Two of the pirates holding holding seven Indian crew members of the MT Asphalt Venture in Harardheere area of Somalia's Mudug region explained the new tactic to Somalia Report.

The MT Asphalt Venture and eight of the 15 crew members were released on April 15th for $3.5 million in ransom, but the pirates kept the seven Indians, according to leader of the group of pirates.

“Yes, we still holding these seven Indian crew. We released their vessel after we got a ransom, but the Indian case is different from other hostages. We are hunting Indian crews from any hijacked vessel and we won't release any Indian crews until the Indian government releases our friends in their jails,” said the pirate who asked to be called Farah.

"We will continue to release any hijacked vessel that pays a ransom, but will not release the Indian crews even if a ransom is paid,” the pirate told Somalia Report.

“There are a lot of our friends in Indian jails, including two of my sons and my nephew. None of the Indian hostages will be released until Indian government releases them,” said Hassan Jama, a pirate from the same group holding the seven Indians, in a video message the pirates released to local media in Mudug region.

Bazal Sien, one of the Indian hostages, begged the Indian government for help.

"We have been here for six months. The climate is so hot and pirates are threatening kill us if our government does not release their pirate friends,“ said Bazal Sien in the video.

India has taken an aggressive stance against pirates this year. The Indian Navy captured 61 Somali pirates from the Vega 5 on March 14th and another 28 pirates on February 6th from the hijacked Prantaly 11 and yet another 14 in June.

In June, the Somali ambassador to India, who says 105 Somali pirates are being held in Indian prisons, requested India to return the pirates to Somalia.

Indian hostages being held by Somali pirates

Pirates are currently holding at least 53 Indian hostages including 46 on hijacked vessels and seven others on land.

MV ICEBERG 1 - 24 crew (6 are Indian)

MV ALBEDO - 23 crew (2 are Indian)

MV SAVINA CAYLYN - 22 crew (17 are Indian)

MT FAIRCHEM BOGEY - 21 crew (21 are Indian)

MT ASPHALT VENTURE (vessel and 8 crew released) - 7 Indians being held in Harardhere

Publicity Hungry Farah Ismail Idle Among Escapees from Berbera
11/02/2011
Farah Ismail Idle

Two Somali pirates, including one of Somalia’s most famous and ineffectual seafaring criminals, have escaped from Berbera Jail after bribing their prison guards, officials and residents in the Somaliland port said.

The two escapees - bumbling and publicity-hungry Farah Ismail Idle and Abdirashid Ismail Haji - and another six individuals were the first Somali pirates sentence to prison terms by Somaliland in 2008.

“Two pirates escaped from Berbera jail, and we are investigating how they escaped: I don’t want to talk deeply this case, we heard they escaped after paying a bribe, and we will investigate,” a police officer in Berbera told Somalia Report.

Idle is still in Berbera, while Abdirashid Ismail Haji went to Puntland and joined his old friends (pirates) in Bari region, residents said.

Pirates used some of the ransom from the MV Dover to release these two pirates from Berbera Jail, according to a member of the pirate group that received $3.8 million for the vessel.

“As a number of them are relatives of these two escaped pirates, they were planning how to get their relatives released,” Mohamed Ahmed told Somalia Report. “I heard last night that Farah and Abdirashid got out, it is good news.”

Ahmed said that more than $100,000 was paid to secure the release of the two men. On October Somaliland officers denied that a number of pirates had escaped jails in Hargeisa.

Breaking News
Ship and 25 Crew Members Released for $3.5M After 11 Months of High Drama
11/03/2011
MV Blida
EU NAVFOR
MV Blida

UDPATE: As of 19:04pm local time, the MV Blida is now safe and heading to Mombassa, Kenya after reports pirates attempted to hijack her again.

After 11 months in captivity, the MV Blida and her crew of 25 have been freed by Somalia pirates after they agreed to accept a $3.5 ransom from the shipowners, much lower than the $7 million originally demanded, a pirate told Somalia Report on Thursday.

Mohamed Ahmed, a reliable source who told Somalia Report about the release of the Danish yachting family 24 hours before the news became public, said the cash was dropped on Wednesday evening. After counting and dividing the money, the pirate group released the vessel on Thursday morning, he said. Two other pirates and a local official confirmed the news.

Diplomatic sources said the vessel, which is travelling without communications to a malfunction, is expected to dock in Mombasa in 3-4 days.

The release comes after months of wrangling, changes in negotiators, threats to kill the crew and demands for ransom ranging from $4 - $7 million.

The vessel was attacked on January 1, 2011 approximately 130 miles south east of the Port of Salalah, Oman on her way to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania at the time of the attack. The Algerian owned ship had a load of clinker and a crew of 27 including Algerian, Philippine, and Ukraine nationals.

Crew members of the vessel were comprised of 17 Algerians, 6 Ukrainians, 2 Filipinos, 1 Jordanian and 1 Indonesian national, but two crew members were later take off the vessel in October by the US Navy for medical reasons.

Ransom Confusion

There was some confusion at first and the normal speedy contact with pirates was delayed until February. To complicate matters, Algerian law forbids paying of ransom and the ship owners only had a small war-risk insurance policy, not the larger KRE plans that the pirates are used to plundering. The Algerian government clearly stated that no ransom would be paid.

Despite this hard public stance, private negotiations began between Garaad's pirate group and the owners. By August, the pirates were publicly demanding $7 million dollars. At that time, according to pirate spokesperson Mahamoud Haji Ismael, the pirates were prepared to kill all the hostages and were frustrated that the seemingly older crew was in such poor health.

They were additionally frustrated by the owner's stubborn refusal to move past a small ransom counter-offer. Most pirates request double their expected price, expecting owners to negotiate downward over a 90 to 120 day period. This normal tactic was not successful.

Garaad then assigned another negotiator named "Ali" who finally negotiated and agreed to a $2.6M ransom, the maximum allowed under the war-risk insurance carried by the ship. A signed agreement with the pirates was drafted with instructions on how to pay the money. A plane was arranged for the drop but at the last minute, Garaad blew his top when he learned of the low amount and cancelled the deal.

Trusted negotiator Looyan was put in place. Looyan has negotiated over 20 ships, including the massive oil tanker ransoms that pushed the record above 12 million dollars. Looyan is also targeted for arrest and sanctions by the UN in their latest report.

Garaad is former military and was trained by the HART program in Bosasso in 1999. He is the single most successful pirate in Somalia and unlike his contemporaries, such as Booyah, has escaped jail, or retirement like Afweyne.

Somalia Report contacted Garaad to find out what happened.

“We changed our negotiator Ali to Looyaan, so Looyaan was our negotiator since the last three days," he said. “We changed Ali because we are not confident in him. During the negotiation we demanded a final ransom of $4.5 million. Ali told the owners that we demanded $2.6million."

Negotiator Looyan was also contacted by Somalia Report during the change. “Yes, I am the new negotiator, we don’t want to talk about the ransom that we are demanding. First we are transferring two of the crew members who are seriously sick to navy ships without any ransom. It is a humanitarian gesture. After we transfer these patients to navy ships, then we will open the negotiation about the ransom,” he said.

Looyan's version of the cancelled drop differed.

“The owners told us that they would send a airplane to take these patients and we refused that action. We will transfer them to the nearest warship. We are still demanding $4.5 million,” said Looyaan.

A spokesman for the owner said that the pirates broke their word and he has a signed contract to prove it. This is the third time pirates have broken their word, most recently in the case of the MV Dover.

The ship manager of the vessel is the Greece-based Sekur Holdings Inc., while her registered owner is International Bulk Carriers of Algeria, a subsidiary of the Algerian National Company of Navigation (Compangnie Nationale de Navigation).

For a detailed profile and background, please see our piracy report from August 12.

UPDATE
Al-Shabaab Move to Burdo, Fight with Shabelle Valley Militia
11/04/2011
Al-Shabaab Fighters in Hiran (File Photo)
Al-Shabaab Fighters in Hiran (File Photo)

At least five people were killed and six others wounded in fighting between al-Shabaab Islamic insurgents and Shabelle Valley fighters, a pro-government militia, on Friday in Jiqley settlement, 40km west of Beledweyn of Hiran region of Somalia, according to witnesses.

“There was heavy fighting and both sides shelled each other. Many residents fled from the area for safety after mortars landed in residential neighborhoods,” Ahmed Said, a resident in Jiqley told Somalia Report.

Earlier this week officials from the Shabelle Valley militia warned that its fighters would launch attacks in Beledweyn town of Hiran to oust al-Shabaab.

Reports from Hiran indicate that Ethiopian forces along with Shabelle Valley fighters trained in Ethiopia were approaching Kalabeyr town on the border between Somalia and Ethiopia.

Residents in Beledweyn confirmed that al-Shabaab fighters sent reinforcement troops to the frontlines and were mobilizing people to join the fighting through forced recruitment.

Neither al-Shabaab nor Shabelle Valley group commented on the latest fighting in Hiran.

Al-Shabaab Fighters Move to Burdo

Meanwhile al-Shabaab fighters in Hiran region have moved to a new military base after Kenya vowed airstikes on their current bases, according to local residents.

Militants vacated two large military bases, Buuco and Nur-Fanax, located in northern region, 25km from Beledweyn city.

“Since we head from the media that Kenya vowed airstrikes against al-Shabaab’s military bases, al-Shabaab fighters began to move. They loaded all their weapons and vacated their main military bases of Buuco and Nur-Fanax,” a traditional leader in Beledweyn told Somalia Report on the condition of anonymity.

Al-Shabaab’s new military base is Burdo, located between Hiiran and Bakool region and under the control of Hiran, according to locals.

“They changed their military base to Burdo. We have seen them re-deploy their weapons. That is good for us because for the last three days we feared Kenya would conduct airstrikes on ten cities, including Beledweyn,” said the elder.

Al-Shabaab fighters from Bakool and Bay also moved to the new base.

“Al-Shabaab’s officers are still in the capital cities, while the their fighters and weapons are in Burdo. They asked youths to fight for al-shabaab and after they refused they changed their bases,” Abdi Jamal, resident in Hiiraan told Somalia Report.

Breaking News
Hostages Said To Be in Good Condition
11/05/2011
Poul Thisted
Somalia Report
Poul Thisted
Somali pirates who are holding captive two Western aid workers of the Danish Demining Group (DDG) are demanding US$10 million in ransom money, Somalia Report reliably learned on Saturday.

Sources close to the pirate group told Somalia Report that the two hostages, an American and a Danish national, were in good health.

According to the sources, 32 year-old Jessica Buchanan and her Danish counterpart Poul Hagen Thisted, 60, are in high spirits and are doing well given the circumstances.

“The two hostages are good, they live with us and their health is also good," said the pirate man who did not want to be named.

“Since my friends kidnapped them, we have been discussing on a suitable ransom amount that they can demand and they finally agreed with each other to demand $10 million for a ransom. They got some contacts from the Danish Demining Group and we hope that the negotiation process will begin soon,“ he added.

The source declined to divulge details about the whereabouts of the kidnapped aid workers citing concerns over a possible military action against the hostage-takers.

“I can’t tell you the exact place that they are holding the hostages now. We are fearing a possibility of a military attack as we have seen a number of airplanes on Mudug Region,“ said the pirate man.

The aid workers were seized by Somali pirates on October 25 in southern Galkayo in the semi-autonomus region of Galmudug state.