Al-Shabaab & Piracy

Title: Somali Pirate Threat Forces Cruise Ship Evacuation
 December 9, 2008
 Fox News

Abstract: A cruise ship will evacuate passengers before sailing past the Somali coast and fly them to the next port of call to protect them from possible pirate attacks, German cruise operator Hapag-Lloyd said Tuesday.

An official with the European Union's anti-piracy mission said separately that it would station armed guards on vulnerable cargo ships — the first such deployment of military personnel during the international anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

The MS Columbus cruise ship will drop off its 246 passengers Wednesday at the Yemeni port of Hodeidah before the ship and some of its crew sail through the Gulf, the Hamburg-based cruise company said in a statement.

The passengers will take a charter flight to Dubai and spend three days at a five-star hotel waiting to rejoin the 490-foot vessel in the southern Oman port of Salalah for the remainder of a round-the-world tour that began in Italy.

Hapag-Lloyd said the detour was a "precautionary measure," given rampant piracy off the coast of lawless Somalia that recently has targeted cruise ships as well as commercial vessels, including a Saudi oil tanker carrying $100 million in crude and a Ukrainian ship loaded with tanks and other weapons.

Pirates last week fired upon the M/S Nautica — a cruise liner carrying 650 passengers and 400 crew members — but the massive ship outran its assailants. Other ships have not been so lucky. Pirates have attacked 32 vessels and hijacked 12 of them since NATO deployed a four-vessel flotilla on Oct. 24 to escort cargo ships and conduct anti-piracy patrols.

The Hapag-Lloyd cruise company planned the detour for its passengers in order to heed a German Foreign Ministry travel warning, after the German government denied the cruise company's request for a security escort through the Gulf, company spokesman Rainer Mueller said. As long as the travel warning is in effect, he said, "we won't travel through the Gulf of Aden with passengers."

A U.S. Navy official said, however, that while the danger of a pirate attack was significant, it was not advising ships to avoid transiting the Gulf.

"We are advising all ships to transit through the international traffic corridor within the Gulf of Aden," said Lt. Nathan Christensen, a Bahrain-based spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, referring to a security corridor patrolled by the international coalition since August.

Some 21,000 cargo ships a year — or more than 50 a day — cross the Gulf of Aden, which links the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, international agencies have said. The growing chaos in impoverished Somalia, which has had no effective government for nearly two decades, has allowed an Islamic insurgency to flourish in the country while speedboat bandits attack ships offshore.

The EU launched its anti-piracy mission five days early on Tuesday, before it takes over for the NATO ships next Monday. The EU mission will involve six ships and up to three aircraft patrolling at any one time, and will station armed guards aboard the most vulnerable cargo vessels, such as ships transporting food aid to Somalia, according to the British naval commander in charge of the mission.

"We would seek to place vessel protect detachments on board World Food Program ships transiting to Somalia," British Rear Admiral Philip Jones told a news conference in Brussels. "They are the most vulnerable ships of all, and the best deterrence is achieved by having such a detachment on board."

The NATO anti-piracy mission has also focused on escorting the U.N. aid agency's chartered vessels, helping some 30,000 tons of humanitarian aid reach Somalia since Oct. 24.

In addition, about a dozen other warships from the U.S. 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, as well as from India, Russia and Malaysia and other nations are patrolling in the area.

The Russian navy will soon replace its warship in the region with another from a different fleet, navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said Tuesday in Moscow.

The missile frigate Neustrashimy, or Intrepid — deployed from Russia's Northern Fleet after pirates seized the Ukrainian ship in September — has helped thwart at least two pirate attacks, Dygalo said. It will remain in the region through December and be replaced by a ship from Russia's Pacific Fleet.

Jones welcomed an offer from Japan to contribute a vessel to the one-year EU mission. It is the European Union's first naval endeavor, though the bloc has conducted 20 peacekeeping operations.

Britain, France, Greece, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands will contribute at least 10 warships and three aircraft, with contingents rotated every three months (Fox News, 2008).

Title: Somali Pirates: Eyewitness Account Of The Threat To Cruise Ships
Date: September 17, 2010
Source: Telegraph

AbstractThe Filipino chef at the breakfast buffet was about to slide a couple of fried eggs on to my plate, and John Brocklehurst, the ship's captain, was in his private quarters on the bridge deck when the pirates appeared.

Our cruise ship, the Discovery (operated by Voyages of Discovery cruise line), was making good progress from Mombasa over the glassy waters of the Indian Ocean towards the Seychelles when suddenly, in the bright sunshine of early morning, a speedboat came roaring in and stationed itself about 100 yards off the port side.

The officer of the watch informed the captain and over the public address system came the "Code Purple, Code Purple" call. My eggs stayed on the hotplate as the Filipino crew members rushed to their emergency stations.

Those passengers who were already up and out on deck – it was before 7am – were told to go to their designated "safe areas". Ironically, the practice drill had been scheduled for later this very morning, but suddenly it was for real.

The speedboat was now parallel with us, its seven Somali occupants sussing us out as a potential target. They were armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers, clearly visible to the trained eye of one of my fellow lecturers, Brigadier Hugh Willing. We were about 200 miles off the Somali coast, so the pirates must have been operating from a "mother" ship, perhaps a captured Taiwanese fishing vessel, a few miles over the horizon. Captain Brocklehurst fired two warning shots with a flare gun to show the Somalis that he knew they were there. Slowly the speedboat fell astern of us and veered off westwards. The impressive defences on Discovery – rolls of razor wire all over the stern rail, bundles of logs to be released to fall on any craft attaching itself to our hull – must have deterred them.

Aside from the few people at breakfast, not many of the 750 passengers saw the pirates. When news quickly spread of the threat, their reactions were mixed: some wished to disembark immediately; others took a more stoic view and reasoned that as the pirates hadn't attacked us it was rather a jolly drama that they could dine out on for some time to come.

For less prepared ships, the danger could have been real. Unofficial figures show that 2009 was the most prolific year for Somali pirates, with more than 200 attacks and more than £30 million received in ransoms.

The naval forces of several nations don't seem to deter them, however. The US Navy has some 15 warships stationed near Somalia, and Nato Response Force has up to 10 ships in these parts. But they seem to be hamstrung by the maritime rules of engagement – they can only intervene if they come across an act of piracy in progress. Even then, they often don't, as in the case of Paul and Rachel Chandler, who were seized by pirates from their yacht as they sailed from the Seychelles towards Tanzania on October 23 last year while a Royal Navy warship looked on, and have been held to ransom in Somalia ever since.

Statement from Voyages of Discovery

"The incident in question, which occurred in April, saw a small skiff operating as part of a group of three. The skiff left the other two and approached Discovery but never near enough to present a real threat. It then rejoined the other boats after a very short time. It remains unclear who was on board the boat and what its intentions were.

"The safety of our guests remains our highest priority. Our crew members, security teams and procedures are capable of responding to a wide variety of challenges. All ships operating in an area with a perceived high risk of pirate activity follow standard maritime procedures. This includes being able to reach military vessels, which patrol the area, at a moment's notice should the need arise" (Telegraph, 2010).

Title: 10 Somalis Found Guilty Of Piracy In Germany For Attack On Ship In Gulf Of Aden 2 Years Ago
October 19, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: A Hamburg court has convicted 10 Somali men for seizing a German container ship in the Gulf of Aden two years ago, in Germany's first piracy trial in hundreds of years.

The men — aged between 20 and 50 — were found guilty Friday of attacking shipping traffic and kidnapping and given prison sentences ranging between two and seven years, the dapd news agency reported.

When the MV Taipan was attacked in 2010, the 15-member crew sent a distress call, then locked themselves in the vessel's security room. They also stopped the ship's engine, making it impossible for the pirates to take the vessel to port.

The pirates were captured aboard by a Dutch anti-piracy unit in the area and eventually turned over to Germany (Fox News, 2012).

Title: World Sea Piracy Falls To Lowest Level In 4 years As Somali Threat Eases
October 22, 2012
Fox News

Sea piracy worldwide fell to its lowest level since 2008 over the first nine months of this year as navies and shipping companies cracked down on attacks off the coast of Somalia, an international maritime watchdog said Monday.

The International Maritime Bureau said 233 attacks were recorded worldwide in the first nine months of this year, down from 352 in the same period last year. The bureau's piracy reporting arm, which is based in Kuala Lumpur, said 24 vessels were hijacked worldwide between January and September 2012, with 458 crew members taken hostage and six killed.

The numbers fell because attacks off Somalia's coast plummeted during that same period, from 199 last year to 70 this year. The bureau said only one Somali attack was reported in the entire third quarter of 2012.

Piracy soared in 2009 because of attacks off largely lawless Somalia, where pirates became more daring and desperate. Since then, pirates have been deterred by international navies, and by ships taking their own security measures, such as hiring armed guards.

A recent trip by Associated Press reporters to areas of the Somali coast once controlled by pirates found many of them hiding from creditors in unfurnished rooms. Rather than attacking cargo ships, they were playing cards, or catching lobsters.

"We welcome the successful robust targeting of pirate action groups by international navies in the high-risk waters off Somalia, ensuring these criminals are removed before they can threaten ships," said IMB director Pottengal Mukundan. But he added that the waters "are still extremely high-risk and the naval presence must be maintained."

The bureau said piracy in Africa's Gulf of Guinea, ranging from Benin to Togo, was becoming increasingly dangerous, with 34 cases in the first nine months. It said the attacks were often violent, planned and aimed at stealing refined oil products.

Mukundan said 21 attacks were recorded in Nigeria alone, but he praised the country's navy for helping to rescue vessels. He said many navies in the vast gulf don't have resources to fight piracy far out at sea, allowing gangs to shift their operations to other areas.

In Asia, the bureau said Indonesia reported 51 attacks in the first nine months this year, up from 46 for the whole of 2011. It also warned ships to be alert in Malacca Straits, South China Sea and around Malaysia; each of those areas has reported a hijacking this year (Fox News, 2012).

Title: World Sea Piracy Falls To Five-Year Low In 2012 As Naval Patrols Deter Somali Pirates
Date: January 16, 2013
Fox News

Abstract: A maritime watchdog says global sea piracy fell to its lowest level in five years in 2012, thanks to a huge reduction in Somali piracy.

The International Maritime Bureau says 297 attacks were recorded worldwide last year, down sharply from 439 in 2011. It says 28 vessels were hijacked, with 585 crew members taken hostage and six killed during 2012.

It says only 75 attacks were reported off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, down from 237 cases in 2011. However, east Africa remained among the worst-hit areas, along with west Africa.

The bureau praises international navies patrolling the African waters, saying their preemptive strikes and robust action against mother ships helped deter piracy.

It said Wednesday that naval presence must be maintained to ensure Somali piracy remains low (Fox News, 2013).

Title: Pirates Seize Oil Tanker In Ivory Coast Port, Vessel Turns Up Off Coast Of Neighboring Ghana
Date: January 21, 2013
Fox News

Abstract: Armed men have hijacked a tanker carrying 5,000 tons of oil from an Ivory Coast port and taken it off the coast of Ghana, though its precise whereabouts are unknown, government authorities and maritime officials said Monday.

The Panamanian-flagged vessel ITRI was first seized Wednesday as the tanker was preparing to deposit oil at the port of Abidjan, Ivory Coast's commercial capital, said a statement from the Ivory Coast government -- communicating for the first time on the case only Monday.

The statement said officials located the vessel off neighboring Ghana, and that authorities were mobilized.

The tanker, with 16 crew members aboard, was listed as missing, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's pirate reporting center in Malaysia. He could not release information about the nationalities of the crew, but said in many previous cases, the pirates released the crew after they had siphoned out the oil and obtained any valuable cargo.

The ship initially had trouble docking because a sand storm reduced visibility, a government statement said. Later, the ship's captain radioed the port manager to report difficulty maneuvering. Shortly afterward, contact was lost with the vessel. Then ship consignee Koda Maritime informed port officials that armed men had taken control of the tanker.

Most hijackings in the region occur near oil-rich Nigeria. The first recorded vessel hijacking off Ivory Coast was in October when 14 men armed with knives and AK-47s boarded a tanker carrying 30,000 tons of gasoline. The crew was later released unharmed (Fox News, 2013).

Title: French Tanker With 17 Aboard Likely Hijacked By Pirates Off Ivory Coast
Date: February 4, 2013
Fox News

Abstract: A French-owned oil tanker missing off Ivory Coast with 17 sailors on board likely has been hijacked, an official with an international piracy watchdog said Monday, in what may be the latest attack by criminal gangs targeting the ships to steal their valuable cargo.

Details remained scarce Monday about the fate of the ship, flagged in Luxembourg. The ship had been reported missing Sunday and officials believe it fell victim to the same pirates operating throughout the Gulf of Guinea, said Noel Choong, a spokesman for the International Maritime Bureau in Malaysia.

Choong declined to name the ship's owners or offer any other details. Navy and maritime officials in Ivory Coast could not be immediately reached for comment.

The presumed attack Sunday comes amid a series of escalating attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, which follows the continent's southward curve from Liberia to Gabon. On Monday, pirates attacked another oil tanker anchored off Nigeria's largest city, Lagos, shooting one of the crew members, Choong said. The sailor survived the attack and was taken to a Lagos hospital for treatment, he said.

In an attack Thursday off Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta, pirates attacked another tanker. In a sign of how violent the attacks have grown, the pirates fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the tanker during their assault, which missed the ship, the maritime bureau said. The crew suffered no injuries in the attack and their ship escaped, but it sustained damage from the gunfire, the bureau said.

Over the last year and a half, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has escalated from low-level armed robberies to hijackings and cargo thefts. Last year, London-based Lloyd's Market Association -- an umbrella group of insurers -- listed Nigeria, neighboring Benin and nearby waters in the same risk category as Somalia, where two decades of war and anarchy allowed piracy to flourish.

Pirates in West Africa have been more willing to use violence in their robberies, as they target the cargo, not the crew for ransom as is the case off Somalia. Experts say many of the pirates come from Nigeria, where corrupt law enforcement allows criminality to thrive.

"The pirates target oil tankers because they are actually targeting the gas oil," Choong told The Associated Press. "We're talking about millions of dollars” (Fox News, 2013).

Title: Officials: 3 Sailors, Including 2 Russians, Kidnapped From Ship In Africa's Gulf Of Guinea
Date: February 8, 2013
Fox News

Abstract: Officials say pirates in West Africa's Gulf of Guinea have kidnapped three sailors, including two from Russia.

A statement Friday from Carisbrooke Shipping Ltd. of the United Kingdom said pirates boarded the MV Esther C late Thursday night. The company said the pirates stole the sailors' personal belongings before leaving with the three sailors.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said Friday that two of the sailors were Russian. Carisbrooke Shipping said the remaining crew on board had sailed the ship away from the sight of the attack, which is in international waters off the border of Nigeria and Cameroon.

The Gulf of Guinea has grown increasingly dangerous for shippers in recent years, as criminal gangs and militants from Nigeria often kidnap foreign workers and steal fuel from ships in the region (Fox News, 2013).

Title: San Diego Jury Convicts 4 Somali Immigrants Of Providing To Support To Terrorist Group
Date: February 22, 2013
Fox News

Abstract: A federal jury in San Diego on Friday convicted four Somali immigrants — including an imam from a local mosque — of conspiring to funnel money to a terrorist group in their native country.

After a three-week trial and three days of deliberations, the jury convicted the four men of conspiring to raise and send money to Somalia's al-Shabaab. The men coordinated fundraising efforts and sent nearly $9,000 to al-Shabaab between 2007 and 2008, prosecutors said.

The U.S. Department of State designated al-Shabaab a terrorist group in 2008, saying it was responsible for targeted civilian assassinations and bombings in Somalia. Federal prosecutors have since cracked down on the group's U.S. support with the arrests of some two dozen people.

Those convicted Friday include 40-year-old Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud, who prosecutors said used his connections as a popular imam at a mosque in San Diego's City Heights neighborhood to raise money for the group.

The other defendants were two San Diego taxi drivers, 36-year-old Basaaly Saeed Moalin and 56-year-old Issa Doreh, and 37-year-old Ahmed Nasir Taalil Mohamud of Anaheim, whose financial transfer business Shidaal Express was used to route the money, prosecutors said.

Government attorneys played tapes of telephone calls, many of them between Moalin and the late Aden Hashi Ayrow, who was among the top leaders of al-Shabaab until he was killed in missile strike in May 2008.

On the tapes, Ayrow can be heard telling Moalin it was "time to finance the jihad" and "you are running late with the stuff, send some and something will happen."

Ayrow encouraged Moalin on the tapes to use the imam to help gather money.

Defense attorneys attacked both the editing and the translation of the tapes, saying overzealous prosecutors made money raised for humanitarian purposes appear sinister.

"They see al-Shabaab everywhere," defense attorney Joshua Dratel said during closing arguments, according to the newspaper UT San Diego.

Moalin, Doreh and Mohamed Mohamud were convicted of providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and several counts of conspiracy. Nasir Mohamud was convicted of conspiracy and money laundering.

Sentencing was scheduled for May 16.

In December, 26-year-old Nima Ali Yusuf became the first woman sentenced in the crackdown within the Somali community. Yusuf, who fled war-torn Somalia as a child, received eight years in prison for sending $1,450 to members of al-Shabaab.

Most of the 87,000 Somalis living in the United States have arrived through U.S.-sponsored refugee resettlement programs. The largest two U.S. Somali communities, and the sites of most of the arrests in the crackdown, are in San Diego and Minnesota (Fox News, 2013).

Title: Somali Pirates Release Sailors As Piracy Reports Reach Five-Year Low
Date: March 12, 2013
Fox News

Abstract: Somali pirates released a Greek-owned oil tanker and its 26 sailors after seizing the vessel in the Arabian Sea last year in an increasingly rare hijacking on the high seas.

Pirates released the sailors, including 14 Filipinos, from the Liberian-flagged MT Smyrni on Saturday, the Philippine government said Tuesday. The ship and its crew were headed to Oman, according to a statement by Philippine’s foreign affairs department. Piracy reached a five-year low last year, with intervention by various navies and aggressive interdiction off the coast of Somalia, according to experts. 

“All of the crew members are in good physical condition,” the statement continued.

The ship was carrying 135,000 tons of crude oil when it was hijacked on May 10, roughly 300 nautical miles east of Oman as it sailed from Turkey toward Somalia. The hijacking, according to the International Maritime Organization, involved 10 pirates in two skiffs armed with automatic weapons whose initial attempt to board the tanker was unsuccessful due to increased speed and evasive maneuvers by the MT Smyrni.

Exactly why the pirates released the vessel 10 months after hijacking it was unclear, but the owners of the vessel, Athens-based Dynacom Tanker Management, confirmed the development and thanked crew members and their relatives for support throughout the “long ordeal,” according to a statement obtained by AFP.

Globally, 297 ships were attacked in 2012 compared to 439 in 2011, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Those figures were largely driven by a huge reduction in Somali piracy, although East and West Africa remain the worst hit areas with 150 attacks last year.

“IMB’s piracy figures show a welcome reduction in hijackings and attacks to ships,” IMB’s director, Capt. Pottengal Mukundan, said in a statement in January. “But crews must remain vigilant, particularly in the highly dangerous waters off East and West Africa.”

A total of 174 ships were boarded by pirates last year, while 28 were ultimately hijacked. The number of people taken hostage onboard also fell to 585 from 802 in 2011, while another 26 were kidnapped for ransom in Nigeria. Six crew members were killed and 32 were injured or assaulted.

Just 75 ships reported attacks in Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, where 237 attacks were reported in 2011, accounting for one-quarter of all incidents globally. Hijackings in Somalia, meanwhile, decreased to just 14 last year, down from 28 in 2011.

Navies have been successful monitoring waters off Africa’s east coast and elsewhere, with preemptive strikes and increased presence, as well as private armed security teams, IMB officials said.

“The continued presence of the navies is vital to ensuring that Somali piracy remains low,” Mukundan’s statement continued. “This progress could easily be reversed if naval vessels were withdrawn from the area.”

The most commonly attacked vessels are container ships, bulk carriers and tankers stocked with oil and chemicals. Fishing vessels and other smaller crafts also are at risk.

In another recent attack, three sailors, including two Russians, were freed following weeks of captivity after pirates raided their cargo ship off the coasts of Nigeria and Cameroon. Carisbrooke Shipping Ltd. Of the United Kingdom said in a statement Monday that the men were released following a Feb. 7 attack on the MV Esther C.

The company did not indicate whether a ransom was paid to secure the sailors’ release. Pirates stole property from the ship and its crew before leaving with three sailors some 80 miles off Nigeria’s coast.

The attack on the cargo ship in the Gulf of Guinea, where piracy has risen as it decreases off the coast of Somalia, highlights an escalation there from low-level armed robberies to hijackings and cargo thefts London-based Lloyd’s Market Association — an umbrella group of insurers — listed Nigeria, neighboring Benin and nearby waters off Togo and Ghana in the same risk category as Somalia.

The cost of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea — where pirates are often more willing to use violence during robberies as they frequently target cargo rather than crew members for ransom — has been estimated to be about $2 billion due to stolen goods, security and insurance (Fox News, 2013).