Sunday, February 13, 2011

Seat of the Shah, Part 4

We continue from Part 3.

For a very interesting read of the mechanics of a pirate attack, I suggest Inside story of Somali pirate attack, dated June 4, 2009.

In recent weeks, piracy off the coast of Somalia has been in the news. In an article from February 13, 2011, Nato seizes 'pirate mother ship' off Somalia, we catch a glimpse of a recent event.

A Nato warship has captured a suspected pirate mother ship off Somalia, Nato's counter-piracy mission has said.

It said Denmark's warship fired warning shots on Saturday, forcing the vessel to stop and its crew to surrender.

Sixteen suspected pirates on board were then held and a weapons cache seized. Two Yemeni hostages were also freed.

"These ships provide the pirates with a floating base. They pose a great threat to the merchant shipping," the chief officer of the Danish warship said.

"We have now eliminated one of these threats," Commander Haumann of HDMS Esbern Snare warship said.


Earlier this week, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko) said Somali pirates were now using at least 20 seized vessels as mother ships to launch attacks in the region.

In Inside story of Somali pirate attack we learn the logistical infracture of a pirate operation:

Mr Ali, the pirates' negotiator and translator, is now back in his home town of Hargeisa.

Over hot, sweet Somali tea in his favourite cafe, he told me more about how the pirates are organized.

'Wannabes need not apply'

It is "investors" who play a crucial role, he said.

In the case of the CEC Future, two men put up the initial seed money.

"It costs up to $6,000 (£3,600) to send a team," he said.

"It goes on buying food, ammunition, fuel. Then RPGs and speedboats can be rented. Mother boats are also very important."

Investors have to be prepared to fund several failed attempts and to wait weeks until the team succeeds. But Mr Ali says they can expect to take about 30% of the ransom money.

"That's a return which does not happen anywhere."

The use of mother ships has allowed the pirates a real blue-water capability. Otherwise, piracy would be confined to areas close to the Somali coast - areas more easily avoided.

From The losing battle against Somali piracy, February 10, 2011:

Mother ships

So is any real progress being made in the fight against piracy off Somalia? The statistics are not encouraging.

Currently at least 30 ships are being held, along with more than 700 hostages.

And something has changed in the last few months.

The pirates are using around eight so-called mother ships, far out to sea - large captive vessels with hostages onboard that allow them to stay in business during the violent monsoon winds.

Wing Cdr O'Kennedy says the rewards are just too tempting for Somali pirates to be deterred by a handful of international warships patrolling over 4m sq km.

"What we are dealing with here is a business model that is so good, that for a matter of tens of thousands of dollars you can put together a pirate action group, you can send it to sea and if you are lucky and hit the jackpot, you can come back with a vessel that within six months will bring you a return of nine-and-a-half million dollars.

Mother ships for use as bases also allow the pirates to hide out at sea; the ship appears to be just another freighter or trawler in the Indian Ocean.

From Pirates To The Left Of Me... Terrorists To The Right, February, 2011:

Hargeysa, Somaliland, February 5, 2011 – POLICE chief Elmi Furreh removes his sunglasses to mop his brow as he describes crime fighting on one of the world's toughest beats.

First he motions towards the 1,000-mile Somali coastline where 28 hijacked ships - the multi-million-pound bounty of ruthless pirates - are anchored.

The boats have been seized by the modern-day Blackbeards' "motherships" which, armed with grappling hooks, AK47s and rocket-propelled grenades, now strike far into the Indian Ocean.

The captured vessels and their crew members - totaling 654 - are being held to ransom by the pirates.


According to the UN, Somalian piracy is becoming an "organized industry", which is estimated to cost the world economy more than £4billion a year.

Centred in another breakaway Somali region called Puntland, piracy rose ten per cent last year, with some 445 attacks, 49 ship hijackings and 1,000 sailors taken hostage.

The latter-day buccaneers now use freighters and factory fishing vessels as motherships loaded with smaller skiffs to strike near Pakistani and Indian waters.

It was in the Indian Ocean in October 2009 that Somali pirates captured Kent couple Paul and Rachel Chandler, only releasing them a year later following a payment of more than £450,000.

Either this problem gets dealt with now, proactively, in the international arena (we know that won't happen) or, under extreme political pressure due to a highly publicized event, some powerful idiot (Obama comes to mind here) will develop a cure that is worse than the disease.

And, we haven't even addressed the terrorism yet!

The most recent snip above regarding pirates was from the breakaway republic of Somaliland. But, Somaliland itself is embroiled in violent conflict.

From Somalia: Clan wars, British tax money and Somaliland's aggressions [Editorial], dated February 13, 2011:

GAROWE ONLINE EDITORIAL | Violent clan aggressions, blatant lies of separatism, support for terror groups, and other crimes will not get Somaliland any closer to international recognition.

On Monday, Feb. 7, 2011, soldiers loyal to the separatist administration of 'Somaliland' fought fierce clashes against local clans over control of territory. Of course, explaining the tragic events of that Monday to a reader brainwashed by the 'Somaliland' separatist ideology is difficult, but one simply has to analyze the changing political rhetoric in Hargeisa, capital of the self-declared yet unrecognized 'Republic of Somaliland.'

Sool and Sanaag regions [Map]
Over the past few days, Somaliland's internal politics has been rocked by the events of Feb. 7th. Reliable reports put casualties suffered on the Somaliland army side between between 52 and 65 soldiers killed, while local clan fighters lost an estimated 22 men during the day-long battles, when heavy weapons inlcuding tanks were used.

Hmm... the editorial, from Garowe Online based in Garowe, Puntland, Somalia, accuses Somaliland of supporting terrorism for domestic political purposes (furthering interclan rivalry in the Somaliland government).

Skipping down:

[President of Somaliland] Mr. Silanyo's predecessor, Mr. Dahir Riyale and his former administration, have been repeatedly accused of arming and funding Al Shabaab terrorist elements in Sanaag region. This strategy was fuelled by Somaliland's jealousy of Puntland, which is a stable region, with a functioning government, yet supports Somali national unity under a federal structure. In short, Puntland's historic stability became a threat to Somaliland's lies that the rest of Somalia is war-torn and lawless. But supporting terrorists, as similarly to raising snakes, is never a successful plan. Today, Puntland has militarily defeated Al Shabaab terrorists and flushed them out of the Sanaag mountains, while Al Shabaab remnants have fled to safety in Somaliland's major towns, posing serious security risks for Somaliland inherited by the Silanyo administration.

Peace, security and stability is for the interest of all communities in Somalia. Violent clan aggressions, blatant lies of separatism, support for terror groups, and other crimes will not get Somaliland any closer to international recognition. What readers should understand is that Somaliland has always played a villian role in Somali politics. It is Puntland's continued stability, and some success, that has brought Somaliland's crimes out for public scrutiny.

Well, the excerpts are from an editorial. I wonder how much there is to the allegations.

On the other side of pirate-base Puntland, the terrorist organization al-Shabaab has launched a TV station, and some of its first programming features the execution of an alleged CIA agent. From Somalia's al-Shabaab launch TV channel, February 5, 2011:

Somalia's al-Qaeda-inspired al-Shabaab group has launched a terrestrial news channel in its latest effort to expand its propaganda activities, the Site monitoring group said on Friday.

Al-Kataib News Channel's pilot showed the confessions of an alleged CIA spy who was executed on Sunday, said Site Intelligence Group, which carried a translation of a al-Shabaab statement circulated on jihadi internet forums.

"This broadcast success represents an advanced media leap in the mujahedeen's [holy warriors] media in general and in Somalia in particular," the statement said.

al-Shabaab, who have pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and control most of southern and central Somalia, also boasted acquiring a terrestrial TV channel before Somalia's Western-backed transitional federal government.

Of course, I cannot help but wonder about the terrorists' achievement in being the first to have a local TV station in a place where only terrorists and pirates can afford a TV. :)

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