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Somebody Is Giving Somali Pirates State-Level Intelligence Information
By Victor Thorn
Washington, December 20, 2008 – Dispatched from a mother ship in the Gulf of Aden, a dozen pirates toting rocket-propelled grenades, AK 47s, and grappling hooks leap from speedboats to seize control of another ship, which they then commandeer back to the Port of Eyl in Somalia. So far this year, African pirates have hijacked over 100 vessels, collecting approximately $150 million in ransom money. The payments are concealed in waterproof suitcases, then unloaded into the ocean from specially designated helicopters.
Becoming more brazen each week, the pirates recently abducted a Ukranian ship carrying $30 million worth of Soviet-made tanks, grenade launchers, and ammunition; a Saudi Arabian supertanker loaded with $100 million of crude oil; a British luxury cruise liner; a Japanese chemical tanker; a UN relief boat; while an American naval supply ship was also unsuccessfully targeted.
Currently, at least 17 ships and 300 seamen are being detained in Somali ports as negotiations between the pirates and owners take place.
The problem has taken on such international significance that the seas surrounding Africa are being guarded by NATO, China, the U.S., European Union, Russia, India, France, and the UK; while South Korea and Japan intend to join the coalition. To protect their interests, warships, destroyers, helicopters, and nuclear-powered submarines now patrol this area to combat what some call an “oceanic mafia epidemic.”
Newsweek reports that some ship owners have taken to lining the outside of their crafts with barbed wire to prevent sea bandits from boarding. Additional deterrents include electrified fences, high-powered fire hoses, and Long-Range Acoustic Devices (IRADs) that emit an excruciating wall of sound capable of deafening or bursting the eardrums of would-be hijackers.
Despite these efforts, Somali piracy has become a booming industry, with ransom payments surpassing the entire budget of some provinces, such as Puntland. The pirates even boast an official spokesman (Sugule Ali), while syndicate leaders reside in mansions, drive imported luxury cars, and open special eateries which cater to the pirates and their hostages. To facilitate the movement of their illegally seized currency, pirates either launder it through Kenya (whose financial system annually handles over $100 million in dirty money), or via hawala—an informal Western Union-style transfer network in the Islamic world that leaves no paper trail, no records, and has no government regulation.
A recent report by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics claims there have been “no arrests or prosecution for money laundering” related to these activities.
The modern-day piracy phenomenon began in 1991 when warlords overthrew Somali dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre. With no effective central government, fishermen in this region began noticing that laws against illegal fishing along their 1,800-mile coastline were not being enforced, while they accused international companies of dumping toxic and/or nuclear waste in their waters. With their health and livelihoods threatened, along with mass hunger and continual war against Ethiopia, vigilante syndicates such as the Majarteen clan arose from this chaos.
Spokesman Sugule Ali characterizes the situation as such. “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits. We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.” Another pirate ringleader, Asad Abdillahi, concurs. “We don’t see hijacking as a criminal act, but as a road tax because we have no central government to control our seas.”
The problem is more complex. Evidence shows that some of the ransom money is being funneled toward al-Shabaab, a 3,000-member insurgency group founded in 2004 that has engaged in bombings, shootings, and other violent acts in their wars against Ethiopian soldiers and the Somali government.
Since 30 percent of the world’s oil passes through the Gulf of Aden, the Horn of Africa leading to the Indian Ocean is an area of global importance. It becomes even more strategic when considering that sophisticated weaponry—brokered in secret deals with Sudan—is being seized, not to mention a ten-fold increase in insurance premiums for ships traveling through this treacherous territory.
Still, some suggest Somali piracy is in fact an excuse for certain countries to exercise or regain their naval supremacy. On the other hand, Jeff Stein of CQ Homeland Security writes that “shadowy individuals in Europe or elsewhere may be pulling the strings, ordering ship hijackings from lists of sailing vessels and satellite tracking.”
He then quotes a CIA expert on Africa. “The timing and knowledge of which ships to attack are too good to leave to pirates.”
Journalists Patrick Mayoyo and Lucas Barasa agree. A Somali military policeman told them that “unidentified Western countries are benefiting from piracy.
These pirates are well-connected, and some work with mafias and other international criminals who supply them with arms through countries like Yemen.” A final contingent looks to Israel as the main culprit, claiming that they’re not the actual pirates, but merely sponsors; their goal being to spread piracy so that the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia would have to be internationalized to combat “Islamic terrorism.”
To make matters worse, U.N. mandates prohibit crew members on merchant ships from carrying firearms, and don’t allow navies to board a ship after its been hijacked.
Source: American Free Press, (Issue # 52, December 29, 2008)