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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Is there a Connection Between Piracy and Union of Islamic Courts?

Nairobi Mogadishu - Piracy off the coast of Somalia reached new heights last week when four ships - German, Japanese, Iranian and Malaysian - were seized within 48 hours.

  • 'For many years, piracy was simply robbery, but now it has changed,' Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers Assistance Programme told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
  • We told people not to pay ransoms, but they started paying, he continued. Other gunmen realized that they can earn money and started taking ships hostage instead of robbing them.

Authorities in Somalia have also called on shipping companies and governments not to pay ransoms, but the sums of money changing hands have gone up and up.

  • Mwangura said that the pirates were now largely ignoring African ships and going for the big money jobs - cargo ships and tankers owned by international shipping lines or tourists in their luxury yachts.

  • The going rate now appears to be around one million dollars - the figure paid this month to secure the release of two German tourists who were seized from their yacht in June.

  • According to Mwanguras figures, there were fewer than 100 gunmen operating in 15 groups in 2005.
  • Now there 160 groups with a total of up to 1,200 pirates operating in Somalia coastal waters.

  • Mwangura believes that at least some of the ransom money is finding its way into the hands of Islamist insurgents currently wreaking havoc in the Horn of African nation.
  • "We think they are collecting money going to fund other projects onshore ... we can say they are doing this on behalf of organized crime and for terrorist activities."

  • The peak in piracy has coincided with a gathering of strength among insurgent groups.

  • Ironically, piracy fell during the six months the UIC controlled Mogadishu as the strict religious body brought relative order.

  • The seven ships currently being held by pirates represent a potential seven million dollars that could partly finance the insurgency.
  • The United Nations Security Council in June approved incursions into Somali waters to combat the pirates. But despite the resolution, and recent interventions by a coalition warships, piracy has continued to climb.
  • The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) believes the situation is on the verge of spiralling out of control and wants nations with warships in the area to take the UN resolution to heart.
  • The US Naval Central Command on Friday said it had ordered the set up of Maritime Security Patrol Area (MSPA) - basically coalition warships backed by aircraft - to patrol the Gulf of Aden.
  • The idea is to deter destabilizing activities in the area, Lt Stephanie Murdoch, a spokesperson for the central command told dpa.
  • This includes drug smuggling, human trafficking and of course piracy.
  • Considering the IMB on Tuesday warned that three pirate motherships were believed to be lurking in the Gulf of Aden

The Rest @ Terror Free Somalia

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