Saturday, May 16, 2009



Friday, 15 May 2009 SMC

Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis

Triggered by the English colonials in order to further escalate the Somali crisis, the Somali piracy is a time capsule that simply must cease to exist.

The international community has however the means to eliminate the phenomenon without resorting to military activities.

But, there is no Somali authority in the Puntland coast; the world community will not take the Garowe administration as an interlocutor, and thus the escalation can easily happen at any moment. Yet, there is a peaceful way of easily resolving the "problem".

A first, partly but great, reduction of the piracy cases off the Somali coast can be achieved through the three, simple, following measures that the UN General Assembly and several non colonial powers can support:

a. Somali piracy will exist as long as boats of any type are free to sail to Berbera, Bossasso, Raas Hafun, Eyl, Hobyo and other Somali harbours in the North of Mogadishu.

b. As the aforementioned harbours are located in unrecognized secessionist states´ territories, sailing from and to the coast in the North of Mogadishu must be totally prohibited - with the exception of local Somali fishing boats. The capital of Somalia must be declared as the only port of call in Somalia – as long as the present situation goes on.

Consequently, the international armada, instead of looking after pirates, should rather effectuate a maritime embargo of Somaliland and Puntland.

c. On the other hand, with rather insignificant logistics, UN should man and equip a Somali fishermen registration committee that will move across the Somali coast from Mogadishu to Djibouti, enroll all the local fishing boats and the fishermen, who will express the interest to work in the National Somali Fisheries, and then deliver the record to the international armada that will be tasked with the sea control around the Horn of Africa.

These measures, if implemented, would almost lead to the extinction of the Somali piracy epiphenomenon.

Herewith, I republish the 33rd Ecoterra press release that makes available latest news and comments, analyses and republications about the piracy around Horn of Africa.

A Voice from the Truth- & Justice-Seekers, who sit between all chairs, because they are not part of organized white-collar or no-collar-crime in Somalia or overseas, and who neither benefit from global naval militarization, from the illegal fishing and dumping in Somali waters or the piracy of merchant vessels, nor from the booming insurance business or the exorbitant ransom-, risk-management- or security industry, while neither the protection of the sea, the development of fishing communities nor the humanitarian assistance to abducted seafarers and their families is receiving the required adequate attention, care and funding.

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act". George Orwell


British owned MV MALASPINA CASTLE has been freed by her captors around 17h30 local time (14h30UTC) this afternoon, our local observers reported after a ransom had been delivered. The 30,000 tonne bulker with iron ore and a crew of 24 from Bulgaria (16), Ukraine(2), Russia(1), India (1) and the Philippines (4) had been sea-jacked by Somali sea-shifta in the Gulf of Aden on 06. April this year and kept first near Garacad and lately off Eyl at the Indian Ocean coast of Puntland, the semi-autonomous north-eastern region of Somalia. The crew is said to be all right.

News from sea-jackings, abductions or newly attacked ships

MV MEZAAN has safely docked in port of Mogadishu this morning. The ship which was carrying goods purchased by Somali business persons was recently captured very close to the Somali Indian Ocean shore north of Mogadishu. The cargo of the ship originated from United Arab Emirates and consists of food, building materials and vehicles. It has not yet been proven that there armoured vehicles were on board as earlier claimed by one of the captors. However, local observers report that some cargo was already off-loaded near Ceel Macaan where the ship was hijacked.

The owners of the cargo as well as local elders safeguarded the ship and the crew. It is not clear how much facilitation money was paid for their safe release, but it certainly was not a ransom. While self-help coastguards are looking for illegal fishing vessels and contraband and Somali Sea-Shiftas are looking for international merchants ship off the coast of Somalia with top-criminals no longer being restrained from taking private sailing boats with innocent and defenseless family-crews, among them even children.

Navies have apparently still not found or arrested the Murder Ship

MT AGIA BARBARA: still at large !

Crew Wanted for Murder

The position and route of the vessel with a crew of 6 Syrians and 6 Indians - wanted for murder in Mogadishu harbour - as well as at least one Somali business-agent on board are now roughly known. The small tanker with the IMO number 7616004 and call sign HO4050 flies a Panama flag (possibly now changed). Registered ship owner and manager is MEADOWLARK SHIPPING & TRADING CO. of Piraeus in Greece and the tanker is operated from an office in the UAE. Please report any sighting.

Meanwhile MEADOWLARK SHIPPING & TRADING CO. claims that it is no longer the owner of the vessel. In an unspecified e-mail an unidentified sender claimed that MEADOWLARK SHIPPING & TRADING CO. is incorrectly registered as owner in the shipping registers and that the MT AGIA BARBARA was sold to new owners and would be managed by new managers since September 2008. The sender further stated that the current owners would be WORLD CHAMPION MARINE (the Buyer) and not MEADOWLARK SHIPPING & TRADING CO. (the Seller).

WORLD CHAMPION MARINE, however, could so far not be traced. Unconfirmed reports warn that the vessel if not stopped immediately could reach Eritrea or Sudan and the crew could disappear from there. The Somali Government has officially requested all navies and coastal authorities to immediately impound the vessel and to arrest the crew. Vessel picture: Please report any sighting to: somalia[at]

With the latest captures and releases now still at least 20 foreign vessels (21 with an unnamed sole Barge which drifted ashore) with a total of not less than 297 crew members accounted for (of which 84 are confirmed to be Filipinos (plus maybe 16 of recently captured MV PATRIOT) are held in Somali waters and are monitored on our actual case-list, while several other cases of ships, which were observed off the coast of Somalia and have been reported or had reportedly disappeared without trace or information, are still being followed.

Over 134 incidences (including attempted attacks, averted attacks and successful sea-jackings) have been recorded for 2008 with 49 fully documented, factual sea-jacking cases (for Somalia, incl. presently held ones) and the mistaken sinking of one vessel by a naval force. For 2009 the account stands at 79 averted or abandoned attacks with 36 sea-jackings on the Somali/Yemeni pirate side as well as at least two wrongful attacks (incl. friendly fire) on the side of the naval forces. Mystery pirate mother-vessels Athena/Arena and Burum Ocean as well as not fully documented cases of absconded vessels are not listed in the sea-jack count until clarification.

Several other vessels with unclear fate (also not in the actual count), who were reported missing over the last ten years in this area, are still kept on our watch-list, though in some cases it is presumed that they sunk due to bad weather or being unfit to sail. In the last four years, 22 missing ships have been traced back with different names, flags and superstructures.

In Somalia, Piracy Is An Attractive Career Option

By Gwen Thompkins

It is called Somalia, but to most of the world it could easily be renamed the Land of Pirates. Havoc on the high seas has become routine off the coast of this East African nation, with scores of hijackings so far this year. Last month, Navy SEALs rescued an American merchant captain after Somali pirates raided the Maersk Alabama as it was making its way around the Horn of Africa to deliver aid.

For nearly 20 years, Somalia has endured political chaos and bloodshed. The impoverished country's 10 million people are living without a formal economy or a functioning central government.

But, known for their pragmatism, they survive.

For many Somalis, choosing a line of business is the most practical decision of all. What works is right, and what doesn't work is wrong. That is why piracy has taken hold in the country: It's a multimillion-dollar industry that works.

In 2006, Somali fisherman Farah Ismail became a pirate. But before he was able to hijack any ships, he was caught red-handed with his pirate gear — weapons, a boat, a ladder — and sentenced to 15 years in Mandhera prison near Berbera, Somalia.

World's Worst Pirate?

At Somalia's Mandhera prison, near Berbera on the Gulf of Aden, Farah Ismail can attest that some pirates are luckier than others.

"My aim was to go and capture the ships. But it was not successful. Both times I failed", he says.

Ismail may be the worst pirate in the world. He is a 38-year-old fisherman from Somaliland who decided to make the switch to piracy in 2006. That's when, he says, he got mad at foreign vessels fishing illegally off the Somali coast.

So he got a crew together and went to sea on his boat, looking for a trawler to hijack. He says he wanted to teach the owners a lesson and make a little ransom money on the side. But, Ismail says, the ship got away.

"Because at that time, we didn't know what we know today. We were just trying to pursue them using our normal fishing boat. So, theirs was faster", he says.

Ismail bought a better engine for his boat, a satellite telephone, an AK-47, pistols and a retractable ladder. He also recruited experienced pirates from Somalia's Puntland region to do the job right.

By then, he was less interested in targeting illegal fishing vessels and more interested in gaining a magnificent ransom from piracy. He needed to catch a yacht — or better yet, a cruise ship.

"And I could love if I got one with tourists, with many people onboard", he says.

But before Ismail could get his boat into the water, his neighbors ratted him out to the Somaliland authorities. That was last October. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

"They caught me red-handed, with everything — the weapons, the boat, everything", Ismail recalls.

'A Pirate Until I Die'

"I'll be a pirate until I die. We are not animals. We are human. We are normal people. We share with the people", says a pirate who goes by the name Abshir Abdullahi Abdi and the nickname "Boya".

Boya, from the Puntland region of Somalia, says he knows piracy is tearing at the seams of traditional Somali values. But he says he places more value on the money — and the mouths it can feed.

"We understand what we're doing is wrong. But hunger is more important than any other thing", he says.

To understand why piracy works in Somalia, it helps to know some basics about the place. Roughly speaking, Somalia is shaped like the numeral 7. But the nation isn't half as lucky. On the top of the 7 is Somaliland, which is on the Gulf of Aden. Somaliland calls itself an independent republic and steers clear of the commotion in the other regions. It has had fewer problems with pirates, in part because there is peace in Somaliland. The region also has a small coast guard.

On the corner of the 7 is Puntland, which is on both the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Puntland means "Land of Spices". But the region is better known for human trafficking and piracy. Most hijacked ships are moored off Puntland.

And at the bottom of the 7 — and fully on the Indian Ocean — is an area known simply as The South. The capital, Mogadishu, is here, as are most of the Islamists fighting the current president.

Pirate Haven In Puntland

Many in Puntland's government are said to be in league with the pirates. And with more than a dozen hijacked ships off the Puntland coast, piracy clearly has some local support.

Fishing villages in the area have been devastated by illegal trawlers and waste dumping from industrialized nations. Coral reefs are reportedly dead. Lobster and tuna have vanished. Malnutrition is high.

Sometimes doing a bad thing is the only way to improve the situation for yourself and the people you love, says a pirate known as "Milk Sucker" — who also goes by the name Abdul Rashid Osman.

His nickname suggests he became a pirate at a very young age. And it paid off. Pirate money got his siblings out of southern Somalia and gave him a different life in neighboring Kenya.

Sequestered in a Nairobi hotel room for fear of being discovered by either the police or fellow pirates, Milk Sucker says he worked his way up from indigent lobster fisherman to leading an attack boat in hijackings.

He says he will never go back to piracy. "I got my share", he says.

Now, he says he wants to move to the West and maybe work in a chicken-processing plant.

"If I were educated when I was in Somalia, then I could work at offices. I cannot do this job, and I cannot start education. What I can do is cut chickens. This is my way", he says.

To Catch A Pirate

Rashid Abdi Sheik is a Somalia analyst for the International Crisis Group in Nairobi, Kenya; he is also Somali. Rashid offers a pragmatic remedy for piracy off Somalia. He says it takes a pirate to stop a pirate — the same way it takes a computer hacker to stop a hacker. Rashid recommends deputizing former pirates from Puntland.

"These are people who know the sea. … They are bright, successful, smart and courageous, as well. This is the right material for making a coast guard. So why should we not do it?" he says.

But the pirates interviewed for this report say they have little incentive to work against their brothers on the high seas — that is, unless the price is right.

No real peace yet

A man convicted of robbery by a court in Somalia´s Islamist strong hold port-town of Kismayo had his right hand cut off. Mohamed Omar Ismael stole $90 from a saving account, local reports said. Mohamed was sentenced to the amputation of his right-hand, and the punishment was carried out in public in the city center where a large crowd of people watched on as Islamists carried out the sentence. This is not the first time the Islamic group known as Al Shabab, who introduced strict form of Sharia, or Islamic Law, carried out this sort of incident, it was just last year when they amputated a young man named Yusuf, reports the Somaliland Press. Under strict Sharia law, theft is sentenced by severing their hand. The death penalty is meted out for murder, rape, armed robbery, apostasy and drug trafficking. Al Shabab control much of southern Somalia and are carrying out hit-and-run-style war against the weak transitional government of Somalia led by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. Al Shabab are said to have foreign fighters in it´s ranks and are backed by Egypt, Iran, Libya and number of nations in the Gulf. Egypt which has long policy of waging proxy war on Ethiopia using Somalia, Eritrea and rebel groups inside Ethiopia to secure the Nile fresh water flow is said to be the main trainer of Al Shabab fighters. Likewise Egypt blocks Somaliland´s international recognition so as to maintain a unified Somalia that can destabilize Ethiopia.

Upstanding citizen lumped with neighbours from hell INDEPENDENT

The arrivals hall of Hargeisa Airport is a dust-blown, concrete box on a sweltering plain of scrub desert.

Through its broken doors are peeling walls with a few scattered pictures of Mecca. A brass plaque on a beam commemorates the opening of the building by Prince Henry, the 1st Duke of Gloucester, in 1958. The tarnished plate looks oddly out of place as a reminder of Britain's forgotten colony.

While the rest of Somalia has forced its way on to the world's news agenda as an anarchic, failed state and the spawning ground for a new age of piracy, the former British protectorate of Somaliland has been quietly pleading for international recognition.

To its south lies the region of Puntland, whose ports have been turned over to the pirate gangs. Beyond that, in Mogadishu, are the remnants of an Italian colony that is now among the most dangerous places on earth. To the west is the repressive and heavily armed Ethiopia. It is what Somaliland's Foreign Minister ruefully calls a "rough neighbourhood".

Sitting beneath a map of his unrecognised state - which is roughly the size of Wales and England combined - Abdillahi Duale cuts a polite, if exasperated, figure. He begins to list Somaliland's accomplishments, such as a functioning government, multi-party elections, a coastguard and a police force: quite mundane in most places in the world but in this neighbourhood, truly remarkable. It is, the minister says, "Africa's best kept secret".

Somaliland has more territory and a bigger population than at least a dozen other African states, he points out. A polished performer, Duale explains the Somalis' divergent paths with a brief history lesson. When both British and Italian Somaliland were granted independence within months of each other in 1960, there was a mistaken unity pact that eventually degenerated into the violent dictatorship of Siad Barre and then civil war.

When Barre's government fell in 1991, the north set up its own government within the former colonial borders while the south descended into warlordism.

Both paths had their origins in the colonial experience, the minister argues. Britain only wanted its protectorate to shore up naval control of the Gulf of Aden and to supply meat to Aden itself, and so left traditional elders largely in place. Italy treated its eastern coastal section of Somalia as a settlers' colony. When the shooting briefly stopped in 1991, the north had a starting point, the south didn't.

Despite this, Somaliland's 3.8 million people remain subject to a government in Mogadishu that doesn't exist. It has its own currency, security services, ministries and courts, but no place at the United Nations. Without recognition, Hargeisa has no access to lenders such as the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank.

Presiding over this limbo is Dahir Rayale Kahin. "All the criteria are fulfilled but still no one is recognising us", the President says calmly. "We are fighting piracy, we are arresting terrorists. Nobody can deny our regional contribution".

A referendum held in 2001 found overwhelming support for an independent Somaliland and an African Union report on recognition for the territory in 2005 found in favour, Rayale points out. "Always they say, 'If someone else recognises you, we will be second'. The problem is who will be first?"

The UK recognised Somaliland at independence in 1960 but London would have to upset powerful allies to renew that step. People here know that Egypt remains the major hurdle. Cairo sees a powerful Somalia as a bulwark against Ethiopia in any future conflict over the vital resources of the Nile.

But the potential costs of a continued limbo were hammered home in deadly fashion last October when a series of co-ordinated suicide attacks left 28 people dead and rocked the stability of Hargeisa. While no one wants to put a time limit on how long Somaliland can hold out in isolation, there are worrying signs everywhere.

A few feet away from the Duke of Gloucester's airport plaque is a meagre kiosk offering sugary biscuits. The bored-looking young man who works the day shift there has a favourite T-shirt - it is emblazoned with the name of Hassan Nasrullah, the Hizbollah leader in Lebanon.

Impacting reports from the global village

Al Qaeda's Global Base Is Pakistan, Says Petraeus

U.S. Central Command Chief Says Group Has Shifted Operations There, While Afghani Taliban Plan 'Surge' of Their Own

By Yochi J. Dreazen

Washington -- Senior leaders of al Qaeda are using sanctuaries in Pakistan's lawless frontier regions to plan new terror attacks and funnel money, manpower and guidance to affiliates around the world, according to a top American military commander.

Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said in an interview that Pakistan has become the nerve center of al Qaeda's global operations, allowing the terror group to re-establish its organizational structure and build stronger ties to al Qaeda offshoots in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, North Africa and parts of Europe.

The comments underscore a growing U.S. belief that Pakistan has displaced Afghanistan as al Qaeda's main stronghold. "It is the headquarters of the al Qaeda senior leadership", said the general, who took the helm of the military's Central Command last fall.

In the interview, Gen. Petraeus also warned of difficult months ahead in Afghanistan, saying Taliban militants are moving weapons and forces into areas where the U.S. is adding troops, planning a "surge" of their own to counter the U.S. plan.

The commander said the U.S. had intelligence showing that the Taliban were deploying new fighters to southern Afghanistan, appointing new local commanders, and pre-positioning weapons and other supplies.

"We have every expectation that the Taliban will fight to retain the sanctuaries and safe havens that they've been able to establish", he said.

Senior Obama administration officials have spoken publicly for weeks about the threat posed by Pakistan. In late March, President Barack Obama said that Pakistan's lawless border region had "become the most dangerous place in the world" for Americans.

Pakistani officials have acknowledged that their country is facing a growing threat from al Qaeda, the Taliban and other armed Islamist groups. Appearing at the White House on Wednesday with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari pledged to "stand with our brother Karzai and the people of Afghanistan against this common threat, this menace, which I have called a cancer".

Pakistani Ambassador Hussein Haqqani said in an email that his government is "determined to eliminate Al Qaeda and the terrorist Taliban". He added, "We have launched a major offensive against the Taliban and look forward to acting on any actionable intelligence shared with us by our American partners".

U.S. officials once believed that years of strikes had broken al Qaeda's leadership into smaller, less effective splinter groups. But in the interview, Gen. Petraeus said U.S. intelligence information suggested that al Qaeda has re-emerged as a centrally directed organization capable of helping to plan attacks in other countries. "There is a degree of hierarchy, there is a degree of interconnection, and there is certainly a flow of people, money, expertise, explosives and knowledge", he said.

Gen. Petraeus painted a picture of a globalized al Qaeda that maintains extensive logistical and communications links to terror groups in Morocco, Somalia and other countries. He said militants and supplies pass through southern Iran, helped by Sunni Arab "facilitators" in the predominantly Shiite Persian country.

A ring of Tunisian suicide bombers who were recently apprehended in Iraq appear to have received their directions from al Qaeda figures in Pakistan as well, he said. "There's absolutely no question about these links", he said.

American intelligence agencies have used drones to fire missiles at dozens of militant targets inside Pakistan in recent months, killing several top al Qaeda figures. But U.S. officials acknowledge that al Qaeda's senior leadership has survived those attacks.

Al Qaeda's resurgence in Pakistan is posing a policy dilemma for the Obama administration and senior U.S. commanders like Gen. Petraeus. Pakistan's government won't allow U.S. military personnel into the country. That is forcing the U.S. either to strike targets from a distance, which doesn't always work, or to rely on Pakistan's own security personnel, who have so far been largely unwilling to venture into al Qaeda's remote sanctuaries.

The Pentagon has looked at possible changes in Afghanistan amid concern over the course of the conflict -- some of which have met resistance from current military leaders including Gen. Petraeus. A task force formed by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is conducting a broad review, according to a copy of its agenda. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to appoint an additional general to handle day-to-day operations there, senior defense officials say. A spokesman for Gen. Petraeus has declined to comment.

Gen. Petraeus spent the past week in Washington as part of the Obama administration's summit with presidents Karzai and Zardari. He said the Pakistani Taliban appear to have overreached by sending fighters into the Buner District, just 60 miles from the capital. Echoing recent comments from top Obama administration officials, he said Pakistan's government, military and people seemed to have finally accepted that the Taliban pose a threat to their country's future and must be dealt with.

"There's a sense of collective determination to respond forcefully". he said. "The Taliban challenged the very writ of the Pakistani government, and that's being taken very seriously". Still, he said it was too soon to gauge the full magnitude or duration of the Pakistani response.