Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Once a pirate always a pirate?

By Liz McMahon | Tuesday, 08 October 2013

UN report urges vigilance as Somali attack groups rest but have not retired

Although the heyday for piracy is over, criminal networks that have reverted to other illicit behaviour can easily shift to and from piracy for the right returns, a report from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea warned.
It also warned that any move to relax private security measures and withdraw international naval forces could prompt a new spate of attacks.

The UN body noted increasing deployment, as piracy wanes, of unregulated and untrained Somali security guards to provide armed protection on vessels involved in regional trade or fishing.

In Mogadishu, local bodies such as Mogadishu Port Authority and the police control this business, it said. Such bodies provide guards, weapons and licences, charging shipping companies $500 a month per armed guard and providing these personnel with one-year licences.
In Puntland, however, the enterprise is controlled by private businessmen linked to illicit maritime activities that threaten regional safety and security such as smuggling, illegal fishing and piracy.
The monitoring group identified a network of individuals, including known pirate leaders, who provide this type of private security, whose names have been linked to weapons smuggling and to al-Shabaab networks in north-eastern Somalia.
Such connections enable the regional al-Shabaab leadership to secure a steady flow of weapons and explosives, much of it originating from criminal networks in Yemen, the report said.
The drop in piracy has prompted Harardhere pirate kingpins Mohamed Abdi Hassan, known as Afweyne, and Mohamed Osman Mohamed, known as Gafanje, to denounce such attacks. Earlier this year the two attempted to negotiate an amnesty agreement, reportedly offering to release all hostages immediately.
However, they failed in their bid to secure an agreement to release the hostages in return for an alleged payment of $2 million from the federal government.
Earlier this year on February 28, Somalia’s president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud confirmed that he planned to offer such an amnesty only for “young” pirates, although he gave no further details.
The monitoring group expressed concern about the lack of transparency of such negotiations and the vague tone taken by the president.
It said the steps that the president outlined could lead to a general amnesty for Somali pirates: “It is an oversimplification to limit a complex transnational organised crime to kingpins and young boys, even if it is a strategy for bringing accountability, prosecution and punishment to bear in a difficult situation.”
The group said it had also monitored developments in Puntland, whose maritime police force has been stepping up its engagement with incidents at sea.
It was the Puntland Maritime Police Force that rescued 22 seafarers on board the stranded Iceberg 1, which was seized by pirates and held for almost three years.
However, the report questioned what prompted the Puntland maritime police to intervene at last in December 2012 to free a vessel stranded less than a mile offshore since November 2011, and why the force had not tackled other hijacking cases.

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