U.S. Navy-Jason R. Zalasky-HO/Official U.S. Navy Photo/AP
A commanding officer of a U.S. Navy guided-missile cruiser monitors the pirated motor vessel
(M/V) Faina off the coast of Somalia while one of his helicopters provides aerial surveillance in
Indian Ocean, Tuesday, Sept. 30,
2008. (AP)

Somalia Welcomes Foreign Assistance Against Piracy

October 01, 2008 05:30 PM
by Emily Coakley
Ships from several countries have intervened after a weapons-laden freighter was allegedly hijacked off the coast of Somalia.

Freighter Cornered on Somali Coast

Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, Somalia’s president, today urged his citizens and other countries to fight piracy.

“I call on the Somali people to fight against the pirates. I also call on the international community to act quickly on what is happening in Somali waters as well as on shore,” he said during a press conference, according to Agence France-Presse.

Over the summer the United Nations approved a resolution allowing other navies to patrol and police Somalia’s waters.

But Somalia’s foreign ministry went a step further today, allowing other governments to act on the troubled country’s soil as well, reported the Associated Press.

A Ukrainian freighter loaded with weapons that was allegedly hijacked by Somali pirates last week has been surrounded by U.S. Navy ships and helicopters, according to AFP.

The United States is primarily concerned the weapons will fall into the wrong hands.

“Our concern is making sure that this cargo does not end up in the hands of anyone who would use it in a way that would be destabilizing to the region,” said Geoff Morrell, a spokesman for the Pentagon, in a meeting with reporters on Tuesday. “[A]nd we have committed significant resources to make sure those objectives are met.”

DefenseLink said the weapons were on their way to Kenya, which isn’t a problem for the U.S. government.

“[Kenya] is a peaceful government with legitimate self-defense needs, so we have no reason to believe that this cargo was not destined to the government of Kenya as their president suggests,” Morrell said.

A Russian warship is expected to arrive within a week, and the Russian media has said the warship has commandoes and marines aboard, according to AP.

“Russia has used force in the past to end several hostage situations—sometimes disastrously, as in the 2004 storming of a school in Beslan, which resulted in 333 deaths, nearly half of them children,” reported the news service.

A $20 million ransom has been demanded for the freighter, which was seized on Sept. 25. The ship, called the Faina, has a crew of 21 people from Latvia, Russia and the Ukraine.
There are conflicting reports of pirates dying in a shootout, and the Russian media reported that the Faina’s captain’s death was due to illness, according to AFP.

AP reports that the ship has 33 Russian-made tanks, along with rocket launchers and other weapons.

It’s also unclear where the ship was headed. Some reports say Sudan, others say Kenya, according to The New York Times.

On Sept. 30, the Times published an interview with one of the alleged pirates aboard the Faina, who said the world didn’t understand what they were doing. Sugule Ali spoke to the Times via satellite phone, and said he was on the Faina’s bridge.

He was quoted as saying: “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas. We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.”

He also told the Times that they didn’t want the weapons, and didn’t plan to sell them. They just want the $20 million ransom, in cash.

Opinion & Analysis: Solving the problem of piracy

David Axe, writing on Wired’s Danger Room blog, said foreign navies can’t be everywhere at once, and other ideas, such as putting mercenaries on commercial ships, are fraught with problems.

“In short, there’s no easy seaborne solution to piracy. Experts stress that ending piracy requires law and order on land, where pirates have their bases. But law and order for Somalia, which has lacked a functioning central government since 1991, is no doubt years and years away,” Axe wrote.

Axe also wrote a Popular Mechanics piece that examines what commercial ships can do to protect themselves, and suggests the hijacked Ukrainian freighter may encourage more governments to help patrol the Somali coast.

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