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Status of Seized Vessels And Crews in Somalia

Status of Seized Vessels And Crews in Somalia, the Gulf of Aden And the Indian Ocean

(Ecoterra - 28. September 2010)

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Yet unconfirmed reports speak of the capture of two fishing vessels, one of which is said to be from Iran and another one from Spain in an area off Ras Hafun on the North-Eastern Somali coast of the Indian Ocean. Further reports are awaited,

No news were received on other rumours speaking of the capture of a merchant vessel with a Turkish crew off the Seychelles last week.



Dying thanks to "helping hands" or the straight way to U.S. asylum for the survivors?

Thirteen people aboard a skiff drowned Monday in the Gulf of Aden as the crew of the U.S. destroyer Winston S. Churchill attempted to assist the disabled vessel, a military statement said.

The skiff was found drifting in a Gulf shipping corridor on Sunday.

When U.S. Navy personnel couldn't repair its engine, the ship was towed toward the coast of Somalia and assistance was offered to the 85 people on board -- 10 Somalis and 75 Ethiopians.

"While transferring humanitarian supplies to the skiff, the passengers rushed to one side and the skiff began taking on water, quickly capsizing and sinking rapidly, leaving all 85 passengers in the water," according to the U.S. Navy.

The Navy said the destroyer crew immediately began search and rescue operations. Thirteen passengers drowned and eight were missing, the Navy said. Sixty-one passengers were rescued.

The incident is under investigation.


Residents of the Somali coastal town of Merca say a military helicopter flew over their town and fired on the town after militants fired at the aircraft, said AP. But according to UPI, at least seven al-Shabaab leaders were gathered in a house, which was hit by the mysterious air-strike, but none was reported harmed since the missiles fired narrowly missed them. The helicopter, painted gray or olive green, flew off when al-Shabaab fighters opened fire on it, witnesses reported.

But U.S. military officials and a spokesman for the European Naval Force say their helicopter wasn't involved in Sunday's incident.

But no one seems to know who the helicopter belongs to.

U.S. military officials based in Germany, who represent conventional and special operations forces in Africa said Monday it wasn't one of their helicopters. A spokesman for the EU Naval Force, which runs an anti-piracy operation off Somalia's coast, said the same for the European forces in the area.

But many, including Merca resident Abdullahi Qalirow confirmed the incident.

Since the military and naval forces became extra-tight-lipped, the war over Somalia becomes more and more unjust.


Five hostages working for the Somali telecommunications provider NATIONLINK were taken hostage today in Lasqorey at the Gulf of Aden coast. Three of the victims hail from Somaliland, one is said to be from the Warsangelis themselves and one belongs to the Hawiye clan.

The kidnappers allegedly want to free eight pirates jailed by Somaliland in Mandera Prison.

Similar demands had been made with the hijacking of Somaliland lorries and their drivers earlier.


What marked this piracy-season's opening flurry however were two thwarted attacks which saw the hijackers defeated not by armed guards or high-tech contraptions - but simple safe rooms.

The Panama flagged MV LUGELA, which was reported in the early morning hours (03h25 UTC =06h25 local time) on 25 September as been pirated in position 07 23N 064 49E of the Somali Basin, which is about 900 nautical miles east of Eyl, was later abandoned by the pirates, who had boarded the Greek-operated cargo ship, but were frustrated to find the Ukrainian crew members had locked themselves in a safe room and disabled the engine.

Unable to hold the mariners' lives to ransom or sail the ship, the pirates damaged the ships equipment, set the bridge on fire and abandoned the ship at 20h00 UTC on 26. September in position 0646N 06515E.

The further fate of the pirate group is not known, while EU NAVFOR, who earlier reported the crew consisted of 12 Ukrainians, only stated that the 11 Ukrainian crew are reported to be safe.

Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Ruslan Demchenko meanwhile told Interfax-Ukraine that the escape had occurred due to agreed and clear actions by Ukrainian sailors who did not allow the pirates to change the course of the ship to the coast of Somalia.

Later the crew emerged from their safe-room, extinguished the fire and proceeded to a safe port, was then reported.


On 24 September 2010, the Spanish warship SPS GALICIA’s boarding team operating under EU NAVFOR approached a Kenyan dhow named “SHERRY” off the eastern coast of Somalia.

Suspicions were first raised when the dhow was observed towing 2 skiffs.

After investigating the dhow, the Spanish soldiers found in total 14 people on board and it reportedly transpired that there were nine crew members and one Somali translator being held by 4 suspected pirates.

All 14 people were transferred to the Spanish navy vessel for further investigation.

The Kenya Maritime Authority, however, refuted that any vessel with the name "SHERRY" is listed in the Kenyan registry.

Speculations if it could be the Comoros-flagged but Kenya owned MV RONJA did proof wrong, since that vessel, which is known for strange expeditions into Somalia, actually is at present on the chain at the old Mombasa port due to a legal dispute involving claims by the harbour master and the Kenya Maritime Authority.

On its arrival in Mombasa, Kenya, the Spanish will transfer the four suspected pirates to the Kenyan authorities. The former hostages will be transferred to the Kenyan Police and Prosecutor to give their statements, and thereby assist in building the prosecution case, EU NAVFOR stated.

“Kenya is one of our strongest partners in the region”, says Major General Buster Howes, EU NAVFOR Operation Commander. “Since the transfer agreement, 75 suspected pirates have been transferred to Kenya for prosecution and EU NAVFOR is pleased to know that 14 suspected pirates have already been convicted and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment each. I hope we will continue to tackle this regional problem together.”

Hopefully then also the identity of the vessel will be clarified.

Since with the execution of a Somali pirate, who had been sentenced to death last week by a court in Somalia's breakaway region Puntland at least the EU will according to EU norms not be able any longer to hand over pirates to Puntland, the question will come up again, if Kenya is the right destination, since there like in Yemen the death-penalty also still exists.



Spain would like help Somalia to develop its fishing industry in an effort to fight piracy off the lawless coast, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said on Tuesday. "The goal is to turn pirates into fishermen," he told a news conference at the end of a two-day meeting in Madrid of the UN-backed International Contact Group on Somalia, AFP reported.

"We believe that Spain, with its great fishing tradition and capacity to provide training, can help Somalia recover a key sector that is fundamental to the country's future."

Spain's environment ministry would work with Somalia's central government to identify pilot projects to develop the African nation's fishing industry, the minister said and Madrid would also contribute three million Euros (four million dollars) to Somalia's Transitional Federal Government. The Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed between the Government of Spain and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia allegedly leaves no room for doubt by stating that the funds are for the Somali government budget and will go to improving the Somali population's access to basic services, as well as reconstruction tasks. The Somali president, who is on his way to Malaysia, did not comment on a hinted fisheries deal.

Similar attempts to gain access to Somalia's marine resources, orchestrated by an Italian joint-venture (guns for fish) as well as a British security company (security training for still illegal regional fishing licences), had both turned sour and investigators today claim that only the piracy groups benefited from the outcome, which are well trained and armed sea-gunners.

Spanish industrial purse seiners are notorious for overfishing by using the world's largest tuna destroyers and their activities have been banned by the Union of Pacific Island States, which is why the Spaniards look for new grounds to legalize their off-take.

Spain, which recently had only reluctantly admitted that the 200nm Exclusive Economic Zone of Somalia under the United Common Law of the Sea would now be respected by its vessels, certainly has vested interests to gain access to the rich Somali marine resources and has equipped its fishing vessels in the Indian Ocean already since some time with heavily armed security personnel.

Trawlers from more than 16 different nations have been recorded within Somalia's waters – many of them armed. EU vessels flying flags of convenience, who cut deals with illegitimate authorities in Somalia, according to UN investigators. Clashes between large, foreign fishing interests and Somali fishermen in the second half of the 1990s were the prelude to the piracy explosion.

EU NAVFOR recently expanded its area of operation unilaterally to the whole northern and western Indian Ocean, which critics say does not serve the interests of coastal nations in the region.

OH NO? Finally even governments understand!

Kenya says West wasting money on anti-piracy ships

According to AP, Kenya's foreign minister said Saturday the millions being spent to fight pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia should be spent instead on helping the country become a functioning state.

But he said that nobody is stepping up to help with much needed money and equipment.

"Piracy is not born at sea. It's born on land. And if you are able to patrol and protect your coastline, it's unlikely that pirates will find a way to the high seas to cause the menace," Wetangula said. "Instead, what are we seeing? 52 warships patroling ... the waters of the Indian Ocean, but piracy is still going on."

Wetangula said the flotilla should be disbanded and the money should be used instead to help Somalia "become a state."

He warned that neglecting Somalia amid increasing attacks from militants and Jihadists trying to overthrow the weak U.N.-backed transitional government "may end up being a tragedy that would vibrate far and wide."

Wetangula called the Jihadist threat "very strong" and "very worrying," saying Somali militants are being bolstered by mercenaries from abroad.

"Those with the money don't seem to open their envelopes to Somalia, or to the cause of Somalia," he said.

Wetangula pointed to a high-level meeting to promote peace in Sudan at the U.N. on Friday which President Barack Obama and numerous other world leaders and ministers attended, saying "I wish the same could be done for Somalia."

Wetangula said. "It's the action that is lacking."

Carson said Friday the Obama administration plans to strengthen ties with two breakaway republics in northern Somalia to blunt the threat from al-Shabab, and will provide more aid to the transitional government, but he didn't elaborate.

Wetangula also criticized humanitarian organizations based in Nairobi that say they're dealing with issues like maternal health care and malaria in Somalia.

"It doesn't add up," he said, "and all these things can be done by Somalis themselves if they have a viable government."

NO ID OR NO IDEA? Pirate or Mercenary in Oil War?

Tanzanian navy captures one alleged pirate after three attacks

The Tanzanian navy has captured a suspected Somali pirate after a gun battle in the Indian Ocean, police reported today from the capture, which is said to have occurred on Monday about 70 nautical miles off the Mtwara coast in southern Tanzania, in an area where London-based, Africa-focused oil and gas firm Ophir Energy has an exploration vessel.

"A Somali pirate boat had opened heavy fire on a Tanzanian navy vessel on Sunday night. The navy vessel was seriously damaged and was pierced, with at least 50 bullet holes," Mtwara Regional Police Commander Steven Buyuya said. The first incident actually occurred already on Saturday night of 25 September 2010 between 20h00 UTC and 21h00 UTC in position 09 34S 040 14E when the naval vessel was attacked by a skiff with 4 armed men. They fired at the rudder but the crew returned fire and the skiff retreated. Two Tanzanian soldiers were wounded.

"We cannot rule out the possibility that the Somali pirates could have been planning to kidnap expatriate workers taking part in the oil exploration activities in Tanzania."

After the clash, navy and police boats were deployed to chase the pirate boat. They arrested now one suspected pirate, who was brought to Dar es Salaam for interrogation, but the others escaped, Buyuya said.

Tanzania has attracted increased exploration interest in recent years. The Ophir Energy vessel was anchored at Mtwara port while police continued to patrol the area.

Then at 20h50 UTC (23h50 local time) on 26 September a MV was attacked by 2 small boats with armed men in position 06 54S 040 27E. The vessel returned fire and the small boats dispersed.

In a third incident involving Tanzania "MV MISSISSIPI STAR was attacked by a pirate skiff on 28. Sept. 2010 at 07h47 in position 06 28 S 039 48 E, NATO and other sources reported. The pirates, firing automatic rifles and RPGs, attacked the vessel 45 nautical miles north east of Dar es Salaam," EU NAVFOR said in a statement. Apparently also a military helicopter arrived at location. "The Mississippi Star took evasive action and escaped the attack. The vessel had been proceeding from Mombasa when attacked; no injuries have been reported."


UN removes Eritrea from Somalia meeting

The Somalia meeting at the UN on September 23 featured a little noticed last minute disinvitation. The UN's Department of Political Affairs had invited Eritrea, which has at least in the past been a member of the regional group IGAD, which itself hosted previously even the leader of the Alliance to Reliberate Somalia and many say supports the Al Shabab rebels.

But the other IGAD members wanted Eritrea excluded. They prepared a draft Communique which criticized the UN for inviting Eritrea. To avoid the criticism, the UN unceremoniously disinvited Eritrea, just before the meeting began was affirmed by highest UN levels, but not yet officially confirmed - as InnerCityPress exclusively reported.


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