Somali pirates plunder weapons ship

Times:

Islamist extremists prepared last night to unload rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns from a Ukrainian freighter seized by Somali pirates even as foreign warships surrounded the vessel.

A US destroyer and submarine from an international taskforce set up to patrol the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean and two European-flagged ships were reported to be tracking the freighter that had anchored off the southern Somali coast.

The ship's captain contacted media outlets by satellite phone to say that one of his crew had died during the hostage drama.

The pirates were demanding a $20 million (£10.8 million) ransom for the release of the MV Faina, its 20 surviving crew and cargo of weapons, which include 33 Russian tanks. It was seized on Thursday as it neared the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

“The Islamists have sent pick-ups from Mogadishu to go and collect the gear,” said an analyst with a network of Somali informers. “There's not much they can do with the tanks — they can't get them off — but the rest of the weapons they are trying to move ashore.”

...

Witnesses on the Somali coast said that the navy ships were using loudspeakers warning the pirates not to attempt to unload the cargo. A tribal chief and local fishermen about 250 miles north of Mogadishu said that they had seen the MV Faina near at least two ships.

“The pirates are now surrounded near the village of Hinbarwaqo by Western ships. They asked individuals in charge of the hijacking of the Ukrainian ship to come aboard the navy ship for talks,” said a local clan elder.

...

In the past the trade was directed at earning hard currency. However, this year the pirates have acquired an ideological dimension. Bruno Schiemsky, a Somali analyst based in Kenya, said that Somalia's al-Shabaab militia — the youth wing of the Islamist movement — had joined forces with the pirates, offering weapons training in return for lessons in plundering at sea.

“This has now gone beyond money. The Shabaab are now at sea looking for Israelis, Americans and other Westerners,” he said. “This is getting very nasty now.”

I think it is going to require a sustained attack on the land base of the pirates and the wiping out of their vessels to stop this. It gets too complicated once they are on board the ships. they are much more vulnerable when they are ashore. That is ultimately how we defeated the Barbary Pirates in the Jefferson administration. The Muslim pirates operations had been working the Mediterranean for centuries before that. We could also impose a blockade of all traffic in Somalia ports.

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