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Things have been quiet at sea for Somalia’s pirates in recent weeks. Some admit that their operations have been reduced over the last four weeks, and Somalia Report has confirmed via sources that several factors are at the root of this period or apparent inactivity. Speaking to pirate sources, poor weather conditions due to the start of the southwestern monsoon season, a lack of investment from wealthy backers and the recent anti-piracy activities of the Puntland Marine Police Force have all been cited as reasons for the lack of pirate attacks in recent weeks, according to witness and pirates from different regions who spoke to Somalia Report.
May 4th of this year was the last time pirate groups planned confirmed operations to hijack vessels at sea. At that time, pirates from the Harardhere area, in Somalia's Mudug region, set out in three speed boats with nine armed pirates in each craft. Since then there has been very little in the way of organized pirate activity in the region.
Somalia Report spoke to people in Puntland's Galmudug region and locations in southern Somalia including al Shabaab-held Kismayo about piracy plans.
“Yes our operations have been reduced last three weeks. This does not mean that we stop our duty, but there are some reasons which reduced our attacks,” Mahdi Abdi, a pirate based in Wisil, in Galmudug region, told Somalia Report.
Harardhere has become the pirates’ capital in the last couple of years, as well as being the city in the heart of pirate’s operations in the region. Groups of Somali pirates who are based in the Harardhere area claim that different reasons have reduced their new operations.
“Yes, it’s true, our operations were reduced. The first reason is lack of investment and second is bad weather. Our investors stopped investing in our operations after a high number of attacks finished unsuccessfully, so they lost a lot of money and now they don’t want to invest in us. And weather, we heard that there is power full winds,” Tuur, a pirate based in Harardhere, told Somalia Report.
Following the helicopter strike by EU forces on May 15th on a pirate base on a beach in Handulle, around 11 miles from Harardhere, Mudug region, Somalia Report asked if fear of further air strikes could also be a factor in the reduction in pirate activity.
“It can cause pressure on us, but I don’t think that EU’s anti-piracy airplanes can stop our missions. The main things are related to our internal reasons and the main one is investment, because our businessmen stopped investing in us. Since there haven't been any vessels released, there isn't any rasom money avaiable for new operations. As soon as we get ransom, soon our operations will begin,” Tuur told Somalia Report.
Even with the windfall from the ransom of the MT
The Somali pirates who are in the Harardhere area usually use different bases when they are planning new attacks. The best known being the beaches of Harardhere, Hundulle and another small village which pirates settled near Handulle, close to where pirates hold the Malaysian-flagged MV Albedo, although its crew is now being held on land. The Somali pirates who operate in these areas mainly belong to clans from Southern Somalia. When approached by Somalia Report, residents in Harardhere confirmed that pirate’s operations have stopped over the last three weeks.
Somalia Report spoke with Ahmed Jama, an elder from Harardhere. “We feel that pirates operations were stopped. Usually when they are planning operations – we hear a lot of noise; cars movements, the sound of weapons at night time. But these days we didn’t hear anything at night time, so there was no new operations.”
Pirates are operating in Harardhere freely without any fear of interdiction. The city is out of control of Galmudug and the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), and militants from al-Shabaab and pirates control the area locally; militants are holding the city while the pirates are operating on the sea shore of Harardhere.
Pirates dying at sea;-
Pirate sources added that they have lost three groups of men in recent operations and that another two groups returned from sea without any success. “Bad weather affected us really. We lost three groups. We sent these groups to the sea in April, still they have not returned and we have lost telecommunications. And another two groups returned to land without any successful operations. That is why we are worrying,” Abdi Omar, a pirate based in Harardhere, told Somalia Report.
If pirates have been lost at sea, then it brings the maritime security industry into sharper focus. Incidents such as the one involving the US-based Trident Group have caused mixed reactions in the shipping world. Somalia Report investigated maritime security companies recently, and part two of our report will appear shortly.
The second largest pirate base can be found in Hobyo, located in the southern Mudug region. Hobyo is another important base for operational planning. “Our operations become low. Lack of investment and bad weather are affecting us,” a pirate based in Hobyo told Somalia Report.
Kismayo, in Somalia’s Lower Juba region, is another pirate hot spot. Many groups have used the area to launch attacks at sea and also to kidnap hostages from neighboring countries, such as Judith Tebbut and Marie Dedieu. Pirates in the area have good relations with al Shabaab militants who hold the city and use the area for their operations.
Fear of attack
PMPF anti-piracy operations reduce pirate activity;-
In Puntland, pirates who operate in the area are living in fear of Puntland%u2019s Marine Police Force, who began a large-scale operation against pirates in May. Pirates in Puntland have reduced operations dramatically, as the PMPF actions caused a number of them to flee the area for safer havens. There are a number of villages in Puntland which pirates have used in recent years, in areas such as Bari, Nugaal, Karkaar and Mudug regions. While there were well-known pirate cities in these regions, such as in Bari – Bargaal, in Nugaal – Eyl, in Karkaar – Hafun and in Mudug – Garacad, since the PMPF operation, pirates have largely left these areas and the PMPF has maintained a presence in many of them in order to keep the pirates out. A pirate in Bari region spoke to Somalia Report and explained the reason why their operations have reduced. “We still have power to go to the sea and hijack vessels, we can get investment but we are waiting. The reasons first is bad weather and second is PMPF movement in our bases,” Mohamed Ahmed, a pirate based in Bari region, told Somalia Report.
In Puntland, pirates fled from bases in Eyl, Isku-shuban and Hafun, after forces belonging to the PMPF attacked their bases. Many pirates from Isku-shuban and Hafun relocated in Hul-Anod, only to be forced from there by continued PMPF operations.
Puntland’s Minister for Security, Khalif Issa Mudan, talked about the PMPF actions in the region while he was in Hafun district with the PMPF. “The PMPF are doing their duty, which is to fight pirates and remove them from Puntland’s regions. We know that pirates become less powerful since the troops arrived in these bases – but we hope that they will continue to remove pirates from the region finally.” Puntland President Farole is hoping to rid the region of pirates by August this year.
Pirate sources told Somalia Report that the pirates who had been based in Hul-Anod had a meeting to discuss their future in light of the PMPF operation. “We had several meetings and discussed what will happen next. We can’t be on board the vessels for a long time, so we need bases on land. We are thinking of moving bases to other regions,” a pirate in Hul-Anod who preferred to remain anonymous, told Somalia Report.
Somalia Report will follow any developments related to this story.