Somalia, piracy, Le Ponant, pirates
AP Photo/HMCS Charlottetown/TF150/French Defense Ministry/HO
Image shows gunmen, top left on deck, aboard French cruise ship Le Ponant off
Somalia's coast on April 5, 2008.

Unidentified Warship Captures Somali Pirates

September 07, 2008 02:53 PM
by Emily Coakley
The waters off Somalia are rife with pirates that capture boats and hold the crews for ransom. Other countries and the UN are trying to help Somalia battle the problem.

A Strike Against Piracy

Someone has taken a step toward ridding the Somalia coastline of pirates, though it was not immediately clear who. Reuters reports that an “unknown warship” captured 14 alleged pirates and destroyed their ship. Earlier this week, a French yacht and its passengers were hijacked in the area.
Abdulqadir Muse Yusuf, the fisheries minister for Puntland, a semi-autonomous part of Somalia, said Sunday that the warship might be American, but it’s still under investigation. News accounts don’t specify how the captured pirates were delivered to authorities.
According to Reuters, someone who described himself as “the pirates’ servant” said the two hostages taken from the French yacht are “safe and healthy.”
Last month, pirates hijacked Iranian and Japanese ships, part of a string of recent ship hijackings off the Somali coast.

A combination of location, opportunity and motivation has led to a surge in piracy off Somalia. The country has Africa’s longest coastline, approximately 2,000 miles, according to Bloomberg. That coastline is near the Gulf of Aden and Suez Canal, which lead into the Mediterranean Sea, connecting Europe to Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The government has struggled for years with warring clans and has no navy, according to USA Today.

Extreme poverty has played a role. Christian Bedford called piracy the country’s biggest industry, and said it started in 1991, when the “last semblance of truly national governance” fell apart. Pirates are part of organized, extensive criminal organizations and earn $10,000 to $30,000 annually in a country where the average person earns $600 in the same period.
“At the end of the day, you hijack a ship, you get paid ransom,” said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center, in an interview earlier this year with USA Today. “These pirates aren’t frightened because the returns are so big.”

Background: UN, other nations trying to help

Earlier this year, the United Nations passed a resolution, blessed by Somalia’s transitional government, to let foreign governments’ ships to patrol their waters for six months.

But some say the resolution hasn’t been effective. Pottengal Mukundan, director of Commercial Crime Services for the International Chamber of Commerce, told NPR, “The U.N. resolution has done nothing to prevent these attacks.”

Bedford, a senior analyst and acting program manager at Maritime Forces Pacific for the Canadian Navy, wrote about his thoughts on the situation earlier this month. He said it won’t be enough for foreign ships to patrol Somalia’s waters, and encouraged Western governments to recognize Puntland and Somaliland, two regions “which have operated independently from Mogadishu’s rule for nearly twenty years and have been on the frontlines of Somalia’s struggles with piracy.”

Recognizing those areas, he said, will strengthen them, bring law and order to those areas, and drive the pirates further south, “thereby making it easier for coalition forces to focus on them through the Security Council’s recent resolution.” A stable, functioning, effective government is the answer for stopping piracy, he said. 

Related Topic: Le Ponant hijacking


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