Entries in Somali Pirates (6)


Dutch Warship Destroys Pirate 'Mother Ship'

NATO(NEW YORK) -- Somali pirates may not be as active as they once were in the waters off of east Africa, but they still pose a significant danger to anyone who crosses their path. As a group of alleged pirates learned Wednesday, however, AK-47s are no match for the power of a NATO warship.

Early Wednesday, the crew of the Dutch warship HNMLS Rotterdam spotted a dhow close to the Somali shoreline. Because these kinds of fishing vessels are often used as "mother ships" for pirate crews, a boarding team was routinely dispatched to inspect the vessel.

As the boarding party neared the dhow, the Dutch sailors took sustained gunfire from both the dhow and fighters on shore. The boarding party returned fire and very quickly the dhow ignited in flames and those aboard jumped in the water to escape the blaze. The firefight killed one person aboard the dhow.

The Rotterdam's crew rescued 25 men from the ocean, but the rescue effort proved dangerous as the gunmen on shore continued to fire at both the boarding party and the Rotterdam.

None of the Rotterdam's crew was injured in the incident, though the rigid-hulled boat the boarding party was using sustained damage.

The suspected pirates received medical attention and are now being detained aboard the Rotterdam, which serves as the flagship for NATO's counter-piracy task force off the waters of Somalia, known as "Ocean Shield."

"We know that pirates are increasingly using larger dhows as mother ships. Therefore we routinely inspect them," said Commodore Ben Bekkering, commander of the NATO task force. "In this instance the pirates openly chose confrontation. This does not happen often and it indicates that we are indeed impeding their operations and in doing so, pushing them to take more extreme options."

Somali pirate activity usually decreases during the monsoon period that has just ended, but the drop this year has been especially steep. Only 35 vessels have been attacked so far in 2012 and only five vessels have actually been seized by pirates. In 2010 pirates launched 174 attacks and seized 47 vessels.

The stunning drop in pirate activity is attributed to the continued presence of counter-piracy task forces and the growing use of private security forces aboard commercial vessels.

In addition to the NATO task force, there are two other international naval task forces patrolling the waters off East Africa. One is a U.S. organized force of coalition countries, the other a smaller naval force from European Union member countries. In May, the EU force was given the authority to conduct operations against land-based pirate operations in Somalia.

After Wednesday's attack, Commodore Bekkering said, "It is obvious that the scourge of piracy has not gone away and we need to maintain our vigilance."

The danger remains for the 143 merchant sailors still being held for ransom by Somalia's pirates. Some of these sailors have been held for more than two and half years.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Somali Pirates Attack Spanish Warship and Lose

George Doyle/Thinkstock(MOGADISHU, Somali) -- Somali pirates may be terrorizing the waters off of East Africa, but maybe they should pick their targets a little more carefully and stop targeting European warships.

Earlier Thursday, some Somali pirates got a little too greedy and attacked the Spanish warship serving as the flagship for the European Union’s fleet of ships carrying out a counter-piracy mission off of Somalia.   

Needless to say, it wasn’t a fair fight.

At first light Thursday, the Spanish warship ESPS Patino had just completed escorting a ship carrying food aid into the Somali capital of Mogadishu.  In addition to a counter-piracy effort, the EU’s main mission is to escort freighters carrying food from the World Food Programme.  

That’s when a skiff carrying six pirates sped towards the warship and the pirates began to fire their light-caliber weapons at the ship in an attempt to board it.

The Patino’s crew immediately began to fire back in self-defense and launched the ship’s helicopter.

The pirates realized they were outgunned and broke away from the attack, but eventually surrendered to the helicopter -- but only after first throwing their weapons, ladder and fuel barrels overboard.

Somali pirates often dump their weapons into the ocean in an attempt to avoid detention.

Five of the pirates were injured and two required medical treatment on board the Patino. The crew of the Spanish warship is also looking into the pirates’ claim that another pirate was lost overboard during the attack.  

Taking on a warship might sound like a unique event but, amazingly, this isn’t the first time that Somali pirates have taken on a warship.  

In October 2009, a group of pirates attempted to take on the French warship BCR Somme about 250 miles off the coast of Somalia.

They met a similar fate to the pirates involved in Thursday’s incident and were detained after their unsuccessful attack.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Travelers Should Beware of Pirates

Somali coastguards patrol for pirates off the coast of Somalia's breakaway Republic of Somaliland. TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images(HOBYO, Somalia) -- High seas pirates, which have preyed on tankers and cargo ships, are expanding and becoming an increasing menace to tourists and corporate travelers.

The most jarring example is a tactic that is a throwback to the days of sea raiders. Most recently, a wealthy British publisher David Tebbutt and his wife Judith were vacationing at a coastal Kenyan resort when they were attacked from the sea.

Tebbutt was shot dead and his wife was taken away by boat and is still missing. While the attackers have not been caught, some fear a Somali pirate gang could be responsible.

Michelle Bernier-Toth, the managing director for overseas citizens service at the U.S. Department of State, says that piracy is something that people should be worried about and should not be taken lightly.

Bernier-Toth also said that the geographic area covered by pirates is constantly growing. Private vessels, like yachts, often face greater risks than merchant marine vessels because they do not have the same security measures.

Business has been good for pirates, especially in the area of hostage and ransom operations. An average pirate ransom in 2008 was $1 million. In 2011, the average ransom is between $4 million and $5 million, according to the London-based International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center.
Due to this financial success, pirate attacks and kidnappings have been on the rise since 2008 and the numbers are staggering.

In 2011 alone, there have been 330 reported worldwide incidents of piracy. Over 50 percent of these have been Somali-related and occurred along the coast of the Horn of Africa in the Indian Ocean.

Right now, there are 16 vessels and 301 hostages being held by Somali pirates. While the majority of these are commercial vessels, since 2008, tourists from the United States, Germany, England and France have all been victims of pirate attacks.

Four Americans on a yacht were killed by Somali pirates in February 2011, marking the first time U.S. citizens have been victims.

Most experts advise travelers to stay out of known danger zones.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Somali Pirate Sentenced to 34 Years in Prison

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- One of the first men charged with piracy in the United States since the Civil War was sentenced to almost 34 years in federal prison in a New York courtroom Wednesday morning.

Prosecutors had asked Judge Loretta Preska to give Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse more than 30 years for his role in the failed hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, an American-flagged ship, off Somalia two years ago.

Defense attorneys had argued that Muse was driven to piracy by poverty and should get the minimum sentence, 27 years. In giving Muse 33 years and nine months, Preska cited the need for deterrence.

"For five days that must have seemed like an eternity to this victims, Abduwali Abukhadir Muse terrorized the crew of the Maersk Alabama," said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement. "Now he will pay for those five days and the events leading up to them."

Muse pled guilty last year to being part of an armed crew that stormed the Maersk Alabama in the Indian Ocean on April 8, 2009 and took its captain, Richard Phillips, hostage.

Muse was stabbed in the hand by a member of the 20-man crew during a struggle aboard the boat, and then tied up by the crew.

Unable to take control of the Maersk Alabama, the remaining three pirates grabbed Phillips and put to sea in a lifeboat. The Maersk Alabama's crew tried to trade Muse for Phillips but were rebuffed by the pirates.

Prosecutors said that Muse was the first pirate to board the Maersk Alabama, fired an AK-47 at Phillips, and speaking English, threatened Phillips with death.

On April 12, 2009, Navy Seal snipers shot and killed the three pirates in the lifeboat with Phillips and rescued Phillips. Muse was brought to United States to stand trial on charges of piracy.

Muse, whose exact age is unknown but was determined by a U.S. judge to be over 18, was indicted on 10 counts, including piracy under the law of nations, conspiracy, hostage taking, kidnapping and possession of a machine gun while seizing a ship by force. In addition to the Maersk Alabama attack, he was charged in connection with two other attacks on ships off Somalia in March and April 2009.

Muse pled guilty to six felony counts of kidnapping, hostage-taking and hijacking maritime vessels in May 2010, more than a year after his capture. ´╗┐

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


UN Envoy Requests Courts, Prisons for Somali Pirates

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(MOGADISHU, Somalia) - As another vessel is seized, concerns over the inability to prosecute pirates have led a United Nations envoy to propose the creation of courts in Somali enclaves, reports the BBC.

The German cargo vessel MV Beluga Nomination has been seized by pirates north of the Seychelles who are now steering the ship towards Somalia.

In addition to the creation of courts in Somaliland, Puntland and Tanzania, the U.N. envoy has said that more should be done to capture piracy leaders.

“Not everything has been done to get to the top and capture the brains behind these crimes," said Jack Lang, U.N. adviser on piracy.

Lang and the envoy have requested that the courts be set up to prosecute pirates under Somali law and that prisons be built in the enclaves to carry out those sentences.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Somali Pirates Hand Over British Couple After More Than a Year

Paul and Rachel Chandler sit with Speaker of the Somali Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden. Photo Courtesy - Somali Presidency / A. Wehliya (LONDON) -- A retired British couple is free for the first time since Somali pirates took them hostage more than a year ago.

Retiring early, Paul and Rachel Chandler had planned the vacation of a lifetime – six months at sea. Instead, they were captured by armed pirates in the Indian Ocean and brought to Somalia, where they were held, often at gunpoint.

"We're feeling happy to be alive, happy to be free,” Rachel Chandler said. “Happy to be here, desperate to see our family and our friends.”
The waters near Somalia are infested with pirates.  There are reports they have captured more than 20 ships and are currently holding more than 500 hostages.

Ransoms are often in the millions of dollars for large ships.  Friends and relatives of the Chandlers reportedly raised more than $400,000 for their release.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio´╗┐

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