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The subscription version of our weekly report and in depth reports includes a map of pirate attacks, exact locations or movements of captured ships, full reporting on each pirate group, locations and conditions of land based hostages along with a weekly chart and backgrounder on each ship and crew.
Piracy Report is unique in that it monitors piracy from inside Somalia and is an ideal compliment to other maritime and security industry reports. Cost for subscriptions are $25 each or annual for $1200. Custom reporting is also available on request.
This week’s events focused around the European Union's media outreach to get publicity for it’s first strike against land-based piracy. Between two and five small skiffs were damaged by a helicopter near Hanulle sending pirates scuttling onto ships and back into towns. Most of the media coverage amplified this singular attack on a beachside clutter of ships, ladders, fuel and and equipment into a 'pirate lair' and 'land base' and even a 'pirate supply center'.
Somalia Report’s after action investigation found that, a) the attack was on or within reasonable distance of any population center; b) the cluster of pirates had enough time to hear the helicopters coming, get in a skiff and get back on their hijacked ship to use the hostages as shields if necessary; and, c) it will simply get harder to identify these impromptu pre-departure collections of pirate tools.
Pirates assemble their gear in remote beach areas in preparation for departure. They also assemble when a captured ship is being brought in or about to be ransomed. Within the last month alone pirates have reduced their signature from clusters of a dozen vehicles and 40 men to no more than one or two cars and less than a handful at a time. Typical indications of pirate activity start with the aerial and ground identification of arms, ranging from AK-47s, PKMs and some even employ truck mounted Dshk’as. Often security for the pirates is provided by militias hired by pirates who also setup checkpoints and gather intelligence in hub cities.
Fishermen move from their homes inland and set up rudimentary fishing camps. These are bowlike supports with thatch, trash bags and cardboard providing shade from the sun. Many go out at night to fish and during the day link up with Yemeni owned dhows moving up and down the coast to sell their catch. Some of those dhows are motherships, but the presence of armed men and unusual number of skiffs are tip-offs. Fishermen can be armed, but typically have much lower concentrations of men per skiff or dhow. The use of large outboards, large amounts of fuel and
A long boarding ladder is a giveaway and very hard to conceal. The navies and air forces that survey the coast know this, but they do not communicate this to the residents who fear airstrikes. Over the last decade there have also been unrelated attacks on fishermen, land based assassination missions, missile airstrikes, drone strikes, artillery bombardments and the usual predation by pirates, smugglers, kidnappers and criminals.
The EU did send out a press release making it clear to the west that “no boots were on the ground” and Somalis are very cognizant of the forces around them. But the EU mission has yet to communicate their positive linkage to local Somali interests rather than international shipping interests. Handled poorly this could galvanize support for the pirates and away from the international forces seeking to mitigate Somali based piracy. Psychologically and emotionally the residents were not happy. They see little visual differentiation to foreign forces between fisherman and pirates and even their equipment.
Ahmed Mire, a local fishermen from Bari region, told Somalia Report, “We are afraid. First we are scared of the navies, which are fighting the pirates. Second, we are afraid of the pirates who take our equipment by force. Airplanes will be our third enemy and the most dangerous one."
Mohamed Dabaaye, another fishermen in Mudug, said that if the air attacks continue the fishermen will stop fishing and lose their only source of income.
“I don’t know what I can say. When airplanes are moving around the seashores they don’t know the difference between pirates and fishermen. They will attack as they have done to our friends Gumbah in Bari region," he told Somalia Report.
The Somalis have every right to be angry and suspicious. Somalia Report would strongly suggest that the EU use the modern tools and Somali language to clearly engage with the coastal villages of Galmudug and Puntland to communicate what they determine a 'pirate camp' to be. Attempts to register fishermen and fishing boats, engines, license movement only frustrate fishermen and rarely stop pirates. For now a handful of $5,000 skiffs have been destroyed and will be quickly replaced.
Hijacked Greek Oil Tanker MT Symrni Arrived in Hurdiyo
The hijacked Greek owned oil tanker MT Symrni and her crew of 26 arrived in Hurdiyo, a small village between Bargal and Hafun in Somalia's Bari region, local officials and pirates confirmed to Somalia Report late on Friday.
Mohamed Ahmed, a pirate from Bari region, said the vessel arrived at their base without incident, despite the recent EU attack.
"The hijacked tanker arrived in area between Hurdiyo and Xul-canood (Hul Anod), closer to Hurdiyo. The group of pirates are right now in Hurdiyo and sending the Ilaalo (bodyguards) on the board of vessel as we normally do,” the pirate told Somalia Report by phone.
Puntland’s local officials in Karkaar region also confirmed the arrival.
"Yes, the hijacked oil tanker arrived in near Hurdiyo. Right now it’s between Hurdiyo and Hul Anod,” police officer Ali Xawaar told Somalia Report.
Hafun Chairman Mohamoud Booli-Wade and Jariban Chairman Abdikarim Kaytoun also confirmed the vessel arrived the region.
“The vessel arrived in Hurdiyo area,” Abdikarim Kaytoun told Somalia Report.
The leaders of this group are Isse Yulux and Gacan Barwaaqo who shared a number of operations over the last few months. Isse Yulux is the investor of this group, according to sources from pirates.
“Isse Yulux is involved with the vessel. He and his group including commander Gacan Barwaaqo are right now planning to welcome the hijacked vessel and hijacker. The Ilaalo group are already on the board of vessel,” Ahmed Yasiin, a pirate based in Hul Anod, told Somalia Report.
Policeman Ali Xawaar confirmed that Isse Yulux is leader of this group.
Looyan, a well-known pirate negotiator, has been slotted as the negotiator for the tanker, which will likely bring in millions in ransom. Looyan is currently in Galkayo with the $500,000 from his share of the MT Enrico Ievoli ransom. Back in November, 2011 Looyaan was involved in the negotiation of the Algerian-owned vessel MV Blida after a reported $2.3 to $3.5million ransom payment.
The pirates chose Hurdiyo because it lacks any official government or law enforcement presence. Pirates told Somalia Report they plan to move the vessel will move from Hurdiya to Hul-Anod in the coming days.
MT Symrni was hijacked by 10 pirates operating from three skiffs on May 10, 2012 with a crew comprised of 14 Filipinos, 11 Indian and 1 Romanian. The Liberian flagged oil tanker laden with 135,000 tons of oil was taken by pirates while underway from Turkey to Indonesia approximately 250 nautical miles south east of Ras Al-Madrakah, Oman. Ten gunmen in two skiffs reportedly chased the ship underway in position 1558 north-06102east. The oil tanker managed to evade the first boarding attempt by increasing speed and using evasive maneuvers. However, the pirate skiffs regrouped with nearby mothership and launched a second attack on the oil tanker approaching at a speed of 24 knots, successfully boarding the vessel.
Land Based Hostages
American journalist, Michael Scott Moore is being held in a forested area near Gawaan village, about 130kms from Hobyo. His kidnapper Ali Duulaaye and gang from the Sacad clan move the hostage about every five days and over the last four weeks have moved him three times. The kidnappers were asking $10 million dollars and will be settling on less than $3 million. The group is not only concerned about a rescue attempt but that the members of the Salebeen clan (who lost relatives in the Navy SEAL rescue of the Danish and American hostages) will try to take Moore from them. The two kidnapped female MSF employees have been moved back to southern Somalia and are being held in Afgooye on a Farm owned by Abdurahman Jama in an al Shabaab controlled area. Abdurahman Jama was a government minister during Siad Barre’s adminstration.
Negotiations are ongoing for their release but have broken down twice, current asking price is $750,000 Somalia Report sources say that any ransom negotiated will be shared between al Shabaab militants and pirates. The pirates are taking the lead using a negotiator named Mareexaan – a pirate from the Saleebaan clan.
Another pirate named Hirsi from the same clan is acting as negotiator. Hirsi is currently in Mogadishu and dd the negotiating on the MV Asphalt Venture. The kidnappers of Denis Alex who was kidnapped from his Mogadishu hotel in 2009 have restarted queries. His location is in Kismayo. Unfounded rumors of his conversion to islam and training of al Shabaab militants are being spread.
Somalia Report has not been able to confirm the location of two South African pleasure sailors Bruno Pelizzari, 52, and Debbie Calitz, 49 who were kidnapped in October 2010. Family negotiators have been slowly bringing down the $4 million demanded. Vera Hecht, the sister of Bruno Pelizzari's sister has received proof of life ivia a series of questions sent to the kidnappers that only the couple could answer.
South Korean Hostages
The captors of South Korean hostages from the MT Gemini have changed the locations of hostages.
A pirate who calls himself “Tuur” told Somalia Report that hijackers moved two hostages to Harfuda village and the other two to Miiroon village, 35km northeast of Harardhere. The men are the the Master, Chief Engineer, Chief Mate and Second Mate, although it is unclear which man is in which location.
The four men have been held since the ship was hijacked in April 2011 and were kept after the ship was freed in December 2011. The Koreans were held back by Shoobare of the Sa’ad clan who have been very aggressive in trying to manipulate the media to force negotiations.
They have been previously reported as sick in January and were threatened with death in July of 2011. Movements and rumor of movements are also tactics used by pirates to destabilize negotiations, intelligence gathering and potential rescue plans.
Sources added that the hijackers of this group have been involved in inter clan clashes in Dabo-Galo. They fear that pirates from the Cayr clan will attack them for the hostages.
Negotiations to release the South Koreans are ongoing with hijackers demanding least $4 million but ultimately insiders are privately telling Somalia Report they are now looking for $2 million.
Pirates Attack Kismayo Port
Meanwhile, in a new development, pirates attacked trade and fishing vessels in Kismayo port on Wednesday. Witnesses and sources told Somalia Report the pirates tried to hijack a vessel from the port to use as a mothership.
The pirates came from their base in Kaboora using three skiffs. Fishermen and al-Shabaab gunmen fired back, forcing the pirates to retreat, according to witness Jama Abdi, a resident in Kismayo.
Pirates have used similar tactics in Bososa, Puntland against charcoal vessels and dhows that use the small harbor.
Although pirates normally operate north of al-Shabaab controlled areas, there is one group that has been active in Kaboora Beach, as previously reported by Somalia Report.
Upcoming Pirate Operations
Two groups of pirates are planning to go to the sea to hijack vessels. Pirate sources told Somalia Report that one group of pirates were planning to launch their operation yesterday (May 17th) in Ceel Qaboobe village, 30km southeast of Harardhere, while the another group is also going to the sea early today (May 18th) in Ceel-Huur area.
Sources from pirates told Somalia Report that first group includes 21 pirates leaving from Ceel-Qaboobe village near Harardhere using three vessels: one large vessel and two speed boats. The leader of this group is Hassan Fuulay, a pirate commander from Abgaal-Hawiye clan. The investor of this group is Mohamed Rashid from the Cayr clan – sub clan of Hawiye.
"They will be using a big vessel and two speed boats with seven men in each boat small speed boat while there are also seven pirates on the board of the big vessel," a pirate in Ceel-Qaboobe village told Somalia Report.
The second group of pirates are using Ceel-Huur area and are planning to go to the sea early today by using only three speed boats with 18 armed pirates, according to sources from pirates.
Most pirates from this group are the ones who kidnapped two Danish Demining Group hostages (one Americna and one Dane). They are the part of armed pirates who remained in Ceel- Huur when the US Navy SEALS American forces rescued the pair from their friends near Cadaado (Adado).
Sources added that the Bile Abdirays from the Saleeban clan is the commander of this group while Hassan Duuban is the investor of this group. Mr Duuban is also one of investors of MV Albedo.
International Maritime Organization Conference
The other development was about as far away from the hot humid shores of Somalia as possible. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) brought together a number of delegates to London to sign five strategic partnerships. The IMO is the key reporting and regulatory body for maritime activities and their goal was to perfect the discussions held at their previous “Capacity Building to Counter Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.”
Around three hundred attendees sat through the presentations in what has become a regular ritual of concepts presented to organizations to reduce the effects of piracy. The European Union and United Nations brought forth an alphabet soup of acronyms and programs. Most of the focus in on laws, judicial systems, training, codes of conduct and very little on tactical or strategic solutions to piracy.
There were presentations on a number of topics including fisheries support, information sharing and law enforcement/prison enhancement. For example, the UNDOC presented a global population of 1150 on trial or convicted pirates with the vast majority (290) imprisoned in Puntland, followed by Kenya (164), Yemen (129) and India (119). Despite the Bososo jail is still the overcrowded, dirty place it was ten years ago. The new prison in Somaliland is technically not even in Somalia and of the 90 pirates brought to justice, only 24 have been convicted and 70 released.
In a perfect spotlight of why the UN and EU soft sided approach to anti piracy may not work, in March the EU donated $10 million to upgrade Puntland's prisons...because transferring EU-captured pirates to a prison that did not meet European standards would be a violation of human rights. Certainly something to think about for all those captured mariners and Somali fishermen.
The most pressing international need and a solution that must come from international organizations, in Somalia Report’s view, is a regulatory framework that would allow the deployment of armed security guards on board or alongside ships. The use of armed guards, either private or state provided has been proven to be a deterrent to hijacking. Lack of reporting, rules of force, weapons licensing, standards, deconfliction with other armed groups with and even accountability have yet to be fully determined. The move to armed guards aboard ships has direct safety and financial benefit to the shipping industry. For example Seacurus, a UK based insurer believes that the use of armed guards aboard ships can reduce insurance premiums by three quarters per transit. The owner gave Bloomberg an example - if an owner hires four armed guards for a single transit of a large tanker they will reduce their kidnap and ransom insurance rates from $15,000 to around $4,500 from $15,000 for a large tanker’s single transit. Owner Maddalena told Bloomberg that he believes that only about 20 percent of all ship owners buy the coverage.
What may be more disturbing is the quiet growth of an entire anti-piracy sector that is not actually focused on preventing piracy but making money by creating projects that only claim to reduce piracy with little to no or benefit to the Somali coastal community or the maritime industry.
Interview with Ras Aseyr President
There are a number of players in the anti piracy field. Somalia Report took time to talk to Farah Mohamoud Yusuf (Doha Joog), the self-declared president of a breakaway region in Puntland called Ras Caseyr (Ras Aseyr), which is essentially the area around Bargal in Puntland's Bari region. Doha Joog makes a number of statements that simply can’t be verified nor has Somalia Report found credible proof of “five anti piracy units” beyond the cobbled together militia covered in our previous eye witness report in April of last year.
Ras Aseyr is vehemently opposed to the recognized elected government of Mohamad Farole and Puntland’s control of their affairs.
The interview, held in a Nairobi hotel, illustrates the barriers and suspicsions that must be bridged to form policy and implement security programs. He talks about his administration, how they will fight pirates, the security of Bargal area and his comment about EU - anti piracy operations in Somali coasts.
Mr. President give us details about your trip to London.
Yes, I came back from London and I met officials from Britain and we discussed Ras Aseyr State, the administration, how we operate economically and strategically, what our resources of our regions, and the drought. So far no one has helped us so this is why we met with the foreign officials of Britain.
Did the Britain accept the independence of your state?
No, we are not independent state. We are working as semi-autonomous region and are under control of Transitional Federal Government. They accept us as state which is under federal government.
Did you talk about your counter-piracy affects?
Yes we talked about pirates. As a Ras Caseyr state, we set up our anti-piracy units in five bases in our regions: Bargal, Toxin, Bareda, Caluula and Dhurbo.
In our regions most people are fishermen. Pirates attack local fishermen and take their fishing boats to hijack another vessels in international waters. Pirates are not just the problem of international vessels, but also they are a problem for local fishermen. We need the world to help us.
We explained to British and American governments that the only way pirates will be finished is to fight them on land not at the sea because pirates need food, fuel, drugs and weapons so they have to have a base on land and they can’t be on the ships forever.
So, are you happy for the EU NAVOR mandate extension?
Yes, we are happy for the EUNAVOR mandate extension, but they have to change the way they are operating, because now they are only fighting pirates on the sea like NATO. They have to come and fight pirates on land. They have put bases on land they have help those fighting with pirates like our administration (Ras Caseyr State), Galmudug , Himan and Heeb and Puntland in Garacad area. So they have put bases on land.
So, what kind of support do you need from counter-piracy EUNAVOR or NATO, military support or intelligence support?
We need intelligence support because we can attack the pirates as well and financial support. Our fishermen are saying "If you train me, I will fight pirates."
Have you contacted EU NAVOR to talk about piracy operations?
Yes, we contact EUNAVOR and NATO any time we want. We have their emails and the their telephone contacts. But sometimes they do nothing. When we tell them there is an a operation, NATO and EUNAVOR say, "let’s wait until it happens." The operation that we informed to NATO or EUNAVOR is when pirates planning an operation in sea shore and preparing to go to the sea to hijack vessels. For example, when we get tips about a pirate operation we tell NATO that there are two speed boats with armed pirate moved from Garacad area and heading to Indian ocean or Arabian ocean to hijack vessel.
Do you know the reason? International navies which operates in Somalia’s seas are from different countries such as the USA, British, France and also Indians. I would like to add that all our local fishermen are complaining about the Indian Navy because they took all the equipment from our local fishermen. Navies confuse pirates and local fishermen. The other navies release our fishermen after investigation if they are suspected of being pirates but the Indian Navy takes telephones, mobiles and watches. We have two incidents as proof.
Who are your informers?
We are Somali and we each other. We hire youths who were pirates before so they have links to pirate groups. It’s easy for them to get information’s related to pirate movement, operations and tactics daily.
Are their any hijacked vessels right now in Ras Aseyr area?
No. We fought with pirates and removed them from our regions and we will continue to fight pirates.
But when pirates hijacked the MV Leila and the MT Royal Grace they brought them to Bargal?
Yes, some vessels were moved to Hurdiyo, but Hurdiyo is not under the control of our administration. There is no administration there so that is why pirates brought vessels there first. Our anti-piracy units operate in our regions and we have 25 to 30 persons at each base. They operate out to sea surrounding the Ras Aseyr area and fight with pirates.
Why is the world giving ransom to these young guys? Why are the foreign people giving millions to these pirates?
This ransom not going to Somalia.
As Ras Caseyr officials which airport you use?
We use speed boats and go to Mukuli Airport in Yemen, and sometimes we use another airport in Somalia, sometimes airports in Puntland, but we hide our titles.
You use speed boats but you haven’t met been attacked by pirates?
Ha ha. No, not yet which is OK. Thank you.
You are welcome. Anytime.