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Old July 19th, 2006, 01:14 AM   #101
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20 Filipino seamen kidnapped in Somalia released after 3 1/2 months
17 July 2006

MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Twenty Filipino seamen kidnapped by pirates in Somalia in March have been released and are on their way home, officials said Monday.

The men were freed unharmed on Saturday, and it wasn't immediately clear whether any ransom had been paid, said Roy Cimatu, the government's special envoy to the Middle East.

"I am not privy to their negotiations, but piracy is rampant there. So most likely ransom was paid. Almost all shipping lines pay ransom," Cimatu told The Associated Press.

The men were seized after their oil tanker, the United Arab Emirates-registered MT LIN1, offloaded its cargo at a southern Somali port on March 29, the Philippine Foreign Affairs Department said.

The department said the owners of the ship, the Akron Trade and Transport Co. based in Fujairah, the United Arab Emirates, negotiated for the men's release.

It said the company's representative, Manoj Sabharwal, informed the Philippine Embassy in the United Arab Emirates that all crew members were safe and none required medical attention.

They were expected to arrive in Fujairah next week, the department said.

Piracy in Somalia rose sharply last year, with 35 reported incidents compared to two in 2004, according to the International Maritime Bureau. The bandits target both passenger and cargo vessels for ransom or to loot.
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Old July 31st, 2006, 05:57 AM   #102
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8 South Korean sailors freed after kidnapping by Somali militia to return home
30 July 2006

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Eight South Korean fishermen released after being held for months by Somali pirates could return home as early as this weekend, a company official said Monday.

The South Koreans were set free along with nine Indonesians, five Vietnamese and three Chinese after paying more than US$800,000 (euro627,000) in ransom to the Somali militant group.

The South Koreans are scheduled to arrive at Mombasa, Kenya on Thursday and receive medical checkups and rest before flying Saturday to Seoul, said Jung Pan-jun, a spokesman for Dongwon Fisheries Co. Ltd.

Jung said 17 other sailors on the ship could either board operating in the Indian Ocean or return to their countries according to their wishes.

The militants seized the boat operated by Dongwon Fisheries in April, claiming they were defending their waters from illegal fishing.

South Korea have said the pirates captured the vessel in international waters and later steamed it into Somali waters.

Somalia has had no coast guard or navy since 1991, when warlords ousted longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another.

Piracy against commercial vessels dramatically increased last year, with the number of reported incidents at 35, compared with two in 2004, according to the International Maritime Bureau. The bandits target both passenger and cargo vessels for ransom or loot. Pirates have also attacked a cruise ship.

The increase in piracy included attacks on vessels carrying food aid for Somalis, hampering U.N. relief efforts to drought victims.

Somalia's 3,000-kilometer (1,860 mile) coastline is Africa's longest.
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Old August 3rd, 2006, 09:22 PM   #103
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INTERVIEW-Foreign navies, Islamist rise deter Somali pirates
By Andrew Cawthorne

NAIROBI, Aug 2 (Reuters) - More foreign navy patrols and the anti-piracy stance of Mogadishu's new Islamist rulers have stemmed a wave of attacks in Somali waters that reached record proportions last year, a maritime group said on Wednesday.

Despite several attempts, there have been no successful pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa since June, said Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the Kenya-based Seafarers Assistance Programme, which monitors sailors' welfare in the region.

That compares with four successful attacks before June, and 45 in 2005: the worst year in several decades of monitoring.

Though June was the period when Islamists came to power in Mogadishu and some other southern towns, Mwangura said increased anti-piracy patrols by a U.S.-directed international operation in the area was in fact the bigger deterrent for Somali pirates.

"There is now a heavy presence of Coalition Task Force 150 patrolling quite a way out at sea off Somalia, that is what has really frightened the pirates," he told Reuters, referring to a multinational naval force coordinated from Bahrain.

"Also, the Islamists say piracy is against their religion, and the pirates are perhaps aware of that. But remember the militia carrying out the piracy operate down south and up north where the Islamists still don't have much influence."

The Islamists, who kicked out U.S.-backed warlords from Mogadishu after heavy battles earlier this year, say they have declared war on piracy and set up special patrols of their own outside key facilities like El Maan port north of the capital.

Businessmen linked to the Islamists say they believe pirates are now frightened by the prospect of facing sharia courts.

Pirate attacks are typically carried out by three speedboats each carrying six to 10 AK-47-wielding gunmen, Mwangura said.

$90 MILLION ILLEGAL TRADE

Mwangura said piracy was merely a symptom of a wider problem the world was failing to address: illegal fishing and dumping.

Somali militia were boarding boats on initially justifiable grounds to protect their waters from illegal entry by ships from countries like Korea, Italy, Spain and Thailand, he said.

The militia even operate in two main groups calling themselves the "Somali Coastguards" and the "National Volunteer Coastguards", he said. But then, like common pirates, they demand huge ransoms to release ships and cargos.

"Our problem is what they do at the end, not at the beginning, because Somali waters are full of illegal boats, and the international community is doing nothing," he said.

Some 500 illegal fishing boats are in Somali waters at any one time engaged in a $90 million a year business, mainly in tuna, Mwangura said. Toxic and industrial waste is also being dumped there, while there is a roaring trade in illegal charcoal and the mildly narcotic qat weed.

"To stop piracy in Somalia, you have to stop illegal fishing first," Mwangura said. "The Islamists cannot stop this, only the international community."

The United Nations should pressure countries to regulate their trawlers, individual nations should demand to know the origins of catches being brought home, and known "mafia businessmen" behind the trade should be tracked down, he said.

Mwangura said poor African, Asian and eastern European sailors were suffering appallingly during hijackings at sea, while businessmen ordering the attacks were living safely in Dubai, Nairobi and elsewhere.

"We have told the authorities. We have been giving information to Kenyan security, but they do nothing," he said.
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Old August 7th, 2006, 03:29 AM   #104
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Indonesia key to end piracy in Malacca Straits
Richel Langit-Dursin, Contributor, Kuala Lumpur
6 August 2006
The Jakarta Post

Maritime experts have urged Indonesia to put an end to piracy attacks in the Strait of Malacca, one of the world's busiest sea routes.

In a recent conference on Covering Maritime Piracy in Southeast Asia, experts accused the Indonesian government of not seriously dealing with the piracy problem in the Strait of Malacca, the main ocean highway from Asia to Europe.

"To stop piracy attacks in the Malacca Straits, Indonesia needs to improve its governance," Mak Joon Num, an analyst at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said in an interview.

Mak was one of the speakers in the two-day conference on maritime piracy, which was organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in the capital of Malaysia, one of the littoral states of the Strait of Malacca and the seat of the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Center.

Mak recalled that in the late 1990s former strongman Soeharto, embarrassed by piracy attacks, ordered a massive crackdown on suspected Indonesian pirates and for several years there were no piracy cases in Indonesian waters, including the Strait of Malacca.

Maritime experts pointed out that rogue elements of Indonesian enforcement agencies, including the Indonesian Navy are involved in piracy attacks in the strait, but Indonesian authorities are turning a blind eye to the problem.

In Belakang Padang, off the coast of Batam, residents, including the village chief, know the pirates, who move freely during the day in the area, but nobody dares to arrest them.

"The police in Belakang Padang have no will to stop piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Malacca Straits," said Paris Institute of Political Studies researcher Eric Frecon, who stayed with the pirates in Belakang Padang and made a documentary film, Piracy in the Straits .

"The local police are not only tolerant of the criminal activities of the pirates, but they are also accomplices and act as bodyguards of the pirates," Frecon said, adding that poverty and unemployment spark piracy attacks.

A former pirate, Marcus Uban, asserted that he left for Batam to become a pirate in order to earn a living.

"Just like me, many came from a miserable kampong life and we targeted cargo ships," said Uban, who has opened a karaoke bar in Batam and promised to become "a good man".

In addition to not having the will to stop piracy, the Indonesian authorities do not have the means. In Belakang Padang, for instance, policemen operate with only two small one-engine wooden boats, although the place is a major pirate den.

"The small islands suffer from lack of care and attention from Jakarta," Frecon said.

Every year, more than 60,000 vessels use the Strait of Malacca, the only passage that is economically viable. Annually, around 30 percent of world trade and 50 percent of world energy need to pass through the 937 kilometer-long waterway.

Cargo ships are not the only victims of piracy, but also trawler fishermen in the strait, which is between Malaysia on one side and the Indonesian island of Sumatra on the other.

Experts, however, lamented that reporting on maritime piracy is biased, with piracy attacks against fishermen underreported and receiving less attention.

"Fishermen are attacked all the time and piracy has become a sustainable activity," Mak said. "The predators are all based in Sumatra and weak governance allows predations to be well-organized."

In Hutan Melintang, a fishing community in Malaysia, trawler fishermen complained that since the 1970s, "lost commands" of Indonesian enforcement agencies are responsible for 50 percent of the piracy attacks against them.

On average, Hutan Melintang is hit by one predation a month and the fishermen are the silent victims, providing bread and butter to Indonesian pirates. There are more than 900 large boats in Hutan Melintang and 400 trawl regularly in the middle and northern approaches of the Strait of Malacca.

"The problem of piracy is land-based. It can only be solved by tackling issues in Indonesia such as corruption," Mak said, adding that Indonesia has to settle its boundary dispute with Malaysia as it is providing renegades with reason to arrest fishermen's boats.

Indonesia and Malaysia have yet to ink a territorial sea agreement covering the northern end of the Strait of Malacca.

Maritime experts, however, stressed that pirates are driven by economics, not by ideology and there is no link between piracy cases in the strait and terrorism.

"It is very unlikely that pirates have a real interest in helping terrorists," Frecon said, adding that as long as poverty and unemployment remain significant economic problems, piracy would exist.

Apart from resolving its border dispute with Malaysia and establishing its own coast guard, Indonesia should also strengthen its cooperation with Singapore, which had expressed concern about possible terrorist attacks in the Strait of Malacca.

"International cooperation for piracy prevention in Southeast Asia remains essentially an ad hoc process," said Sam Bateman, senior fellow in the Maritime Security Program of the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore.

The former Royal Australian Navy commodore stressed that cooperation remains bogged down by the divergent interests of the different stakeholders, which include the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and India.

Bateman, however, said measures for international maritime security cooperation in the Southeast Asian region should also encompass the prevention of other illegal activities at sea, such as the prevention of trafficking in arms, drugs and people.

"Measures for international maritime security cooperation in the region should not be focused solely on piracy prevention and the concomitant risks of maritime terrorism," he said.
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Old August 15th, 2006, 10:40 PM   #105
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Somali pirates flee base seized by Islamists

MOGADISHU, Aug 15, 2006 (AFP) - Gangs of Somalians accused of taking part in a spate of ship hijackings have fled their main base of Haradere after Islamic militia seized the town at the weekend, residents said Tuesday.

Townspeople said gunmen suspected of masterminding and carrying out more than 40 attacks on commercial vessels off Somalia's Indian Ocean coast over the past year had left Haradere, a central township near the coastline known as a base for piracy.

"The pirates are on the run, they are afraid of the Islamic court militia that have arrived," said Ahmed Abdullahi, a businessman in the town about 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of Mogadishu.

"Some went to Mogadishu to pursue decent lives, I know three of them," he told AFP by phone from Haradere, where many of the dozens ships seized by the pirates since last March were taken after their capture and held for ransom.

"The pirates are not crazy, they know what they did to their victims and they know what their punishment will be under Islamic law and the militia will kill them if they try to fight," said another resident Abdi Hassan.

Under the increasingly strict brand of Sharia law enforced by the Islamists who have been expanding their authority since taking control of Mogadishu in June, thieves, including pirates, can be punished severely.

Sentences of death as well as amputations of arms, hands and feet will be handed down to those convicted of piracy, according to an official with the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS) that now runs Haradere.

"If any person tries to commit piracy in this area, we will make life hard for him as stipulated in the Koran," the official told AFP.

Somalia has been without a functioning central government for the past 16 years and pirates had increasingly taken advantage of the lack of authority to prey on vessels along its unpatrolled 3,700-kilometer (2,300 mile) coast.

The International Maritime Bureau reported more than 40 attacks on vessels in or just outside Somali waters between March 2005 and last month when the last of the hijacked ships, a South Korean fishing trawler, was released.

The surge in pirate activity had prompted dire warnings to avoid the area and appeals for international help from Somalia's weak transitional government.

However, maritime officials cautioned that the Somali coast was not yet safe for commercial shipping.

Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers' Assistance Programme said the development was no guarantee that Somali waters were safe.
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Old September 11th, 2006, 03:32 PM   #106
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User countries should chip in for Malacca Strait security: Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11, 2006 (AFP) - Maintaining security in the Malacca Strait is costing countries bordering the strategic waterway millions annually and user states should share the burden, Malaysia's transport minister said Monday.

"The responsibility to keep the strait safe, secure and clean shouldn't be only the sole responsibility of the littoral states. The user states should also ... contribute," Chan Kong Choy told reporters.

"We hope that the international maritime community can respond positively to the call, not only from Malaysia but the littoral states of the Straits of Malacca including Singapore and also Indonesia," he said.

Ships from Europe, the Middle East and Asia carrying about one-third of global trade pass through the Malacca Strait each year, while some 11 million barrels of oil pass through it daily.

More than 60,000 ships used the waterway in 2005, and traffic volume is forecast to double by 2020, according to Malaysian estimates.

Chan said it was costing the littoral states "hundreds of millions" of ringgit to set up and maintain security measures in one of the world's most important waterways.

"It's substantial. To put the navigational aids in place, the sea patrol, air patrol, is substantial. It's a very heavy burden to all the littoral states," he said. "And it's recurring every year."

Chan said littoral states had already discussed the issue of "burden sharing" amongst themselves and would explore the issue at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur next week.

He said Malaysia had already held bilateral discussions with a number of user states on the issue.

"I think the response has been quite positive," he said.

The transport minister told industry participants at the Asia Maritime and Logistics conference here that safety and security measures had a "financial dimension" as well.

In addition to maritime terrorism and piracy, littoral states also had to worry about ship accidents and marine pollution from increased vessel traffic, he said.

"This is indeed an enormous task, burden and responsibility that we the littoral states bear," Chan said in a keynote address to the conference.
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Old September 12th, 2006, 08:32 PM   #107
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Experts: Foreign military help needed to guard against terror in Malacca Strait
By EILEEN NG
12 September 2006

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Joint patrols by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore are inadequate to secure the Malacca Straits if there is a major terrorist strike and foreign military help should be considered, experts said Tuesday.

The three states straddling the strategic waterway launched coordinated maritime patrols in 2004 and air patrols last year after prodding from Washington, which feared terrorists could link up with pirates to blow up an oil tanker or use it as a floating bomb.

However, the three nations rejected foreign military help. Malaysia and Indonesia shot down a U.S. proposal in 2004 to send an elite unit to help secure the pirate-infested strait.

The overall capabilities of the three littoral states are "evidently inadequate to provide a lasting security in the strait," which remains a vulnerable maritime choke point, said Gurpreet Khurana, research fellow at India's Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis.

He said the 2003 seizure of a tanker off Indonesian water by ten armed men to learn how to steer a ship had led to anxieties it could be a "precursor of a maritime 9/11."

Some analysts viewed it as equivalent to terrorists who took flying lessons at Florida flight school before the 9/11 attack in the United States five years ago.

"It may be necessary for the littorals to contemplate guidelines -- Standard Operating Procedures and Rules of Engagement -- for joint patrols in the straits," Khurana said in a paper presented at a regional maritime conference here.

Pirate attacks in the Malacca Strait, which links Asia with Europe and the Middle East, fell to 12 last year, down from 38 in 2004. Each year, more than 50,000 ships, carrying half the world's oil and a third of its commerce, navigate the waterway.

Khurana said it would be tough for terrorists to physically block the Malacca Straits with a capsized vessel but a terror attack on a hub-port or a cruise liner would cause widespread fears sufficient to disrupt maritime commerce.

In such a scenario, vessels will be forced to take alternate straits, Sunda or Lombok Makassar, increasing their sailing distance by at least three more days, he said. It will also lead to a steep surge in insurance and freight rates.

"The global economic impact from this or the closure of one of the hub ports would be disastrous for global economy due to disruptions to inventory and production cycles," he warned.

Takashi Ichioka, managing director of Japan's Nippon Maritime Center, said security in the strait needed to be bolstered.

"Rampant violence and kidnapping of seafarers are still constant worry to Japan," he said in his paper. "It is time to create a new framework for cooperation in which both the littoral states and users will join."

Abdul Rahim Hussin, Malaysia's maritime security policy director, said the three states spent US$1 billion (euro833 million) between 1984 and 1997 to develop strait infrastructure such as buoys, lighthouses and radars.

He said the three nations and the International Maritime Organization would hold a conference in Kuala Lumpur from Sept.18-20 to discuss security.
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Old November 1st, 2006, 02:33 AM   #108
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Kenyan court convicts US-seized Somalis of piracy

MOMBASA, Kenya, Oct 26, 2006 (AFP) - A Kenyan court on Thursday convicted 10 Somali men of piracy, capping a landmark eight-month trial that began shortly after their January capture from a hijacked vessel by the US navy.

The 10 had protested their innocence and claimed to be simple fisherman but the judge hearing the case in Kenya's Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa, said she had no doubt the men had illegally seized the Indian-owned dhow.

"After considering the evidence, there is no case of mistaken identity," Magistrate Beatrice Jaden said in her verdict. "The suspects were positively identified.

"Piracy is a maritime offense and it is an offense against mankind," she said. "It is on this basis that I have found the accused guilty."

Jaden set sentencing for November 1 and the men could face life in prison.

They had been charged with unlawfully detaining the ship, the Safina Al Bisaraat, threatening the lives of its 16-member crew and demanding a ransom of 50,000 dollars (42,000 euros) for their release.

In addition to denying the charges, they had also argued that Kenya lacked jurisdiction to try them because the men were seized by US sailors in international waters, a claim Jaden had rejected in August.

They were seized by the destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill, attached to the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet, on January 21 about 55 miles (85 kilometers) off the Somali coast a day after allegedly using the captured dhow to stage an unsuccessful hijack of another merchant ship.

When their trial opened in February, the crew of the dhow testified that the men armed with automatic weapons and grenade launchers had continuously "tortured" them with beatings and threats after seizing the ship on January 16.

In a bid to attract rescuers, the crew wrote messages on planks of wood -- one saying "help" -- as the destroyer moved near.

The pirates threw some of their weapons and the signs overboard, the crew said.

Their capture came amid a surge in hijackings and attacks on commercial shipping, including one on a luxury US cruise liner, off the Somali coast, that prompted dire warnings from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

The situation along the unpatrolled 3,700-kilometer (2,300-mile) Somali coast led Somalia's weak transitional government to appeal for international assistance to curb the attacks.

But piracy has ebbed since a powerful Islamist movement seized control of Mogadishu in June and then took several other Somali ports, including one known to be a pirate haven, implementing strict Sharia law.

Somalia has had no functioning central administration since the 1991 ouster of strongman Mohamed Siad Barre.
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Old November 2nd, 2006, 01:58 AM   #109
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10 Somali pirates sentenced to seven years in prison for hijacking ship
1 November 2006

MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) - Ten Somali pirates who were captured by the U.S. Navy after hijacking a ship off their country's lawless coast were sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison each.

The men, who were convicted Oct. 26 of hijacking, could have received life sentences for seizing the Indian-based vessel, the Safina Al Bisaarat, in January. Piracy is rampant off the coast of Somalia, which has no effective government of its own to respond. The Horn of African nation has been in chaos since warlords overthrew a dictator in 1991 and turned on each other.

Defense attorney Hassan Abdi said he would appeal the sentences. The suspects said during their trial that they were stranded fishermen who had been abducted from their boat.

U.S. sailors, who are part of an anti-terrorism task force based in Djibouti, detained the pirates on Jan. 22 in an operation involving U.S. military helicopters and a warship that fired several warning shots. They were handed over to Kenyan authorities on Jan. 29 and the trial was held at the main courthouse in Mombasa.

The U.S. Navy had been responding to a hijacking report from the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur. They began tracking the Safina, and captive crew members displayed signs indicating a radio frequency they would use to communicate.

Another sign had the word "help" written on it.

The ship's Indian captain told the U.S. sailors that his vessel had been hijacked two days after leaving the Somali port of Kismayo en route to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The pirates were armed with pistols, assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades.

During the trial, which began in February, Capt. Akbar Ali Suleiman said they had tried to outrun two speedboats used by the pirates. He said once the pirates boarded the vessel they beat up sailors and demanded money. The sailors were held captive for six days before being rescued.

U.S. sailors who searched the ship found an AK-47 assault rifle but the pirates threw most of their weapons into the sea when they spotted a U.S. Navy ship.

Days earlier the pirates tried to seize the MV Delta Ranger, a bulk carrier sailing under the flag of the Bahamas, 320 kilometers (200 miles) off the eastern coast of Somalia.
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Old November 9th, 2006, 03:40 PM   #110
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Islamic fighters storm and recapture hijacked ship from Somali pirates
8 November 2006

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Islamic fighters stormed a hijacked ship and recaptured it after a gun battle with pirates off Somalia's lawless coast, officials said Wednesday.

Two Somali pirates were seriously wounded during the attack on the commercial vessel, but all 14 crew members were safe, said Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Program.

About 30 Islamic fighters stormed the ship late Tuesday, arriving aboard three speedboats and armed with automatic weapons, he said by telephone after Islamic officials in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, informed him of the ship's recovery.

"All the crew are safe and the vessel has been recaptured," Mwangura said.

It is the first rescue of a ship hijacked by pirates since the Islamic movement seized the capital from warlords in June. They have been expanding their control across the south of the country since then. Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohammed Siad Barre and then turned on one another, throwing the country into anarchy.

The ship, which is registered in the United Arab Emirates, was seized last week while heading back to the UAE. It was carrying charcoal.

The pirates had demanded a ransom of $1 million.

The ship will return to Mogadishu but is currently anchored 250 miles north of the capital.

Piracy is rampant off the coast of Somalia, and rose sharply last year, with the number of reported incidents at 35, compared with two in 2004, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

The bandits target both passenger and cargo vessels for ransom or loot. Somalia's 1,860-mile coastline is Africa's longest.
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Old November 9th, 2006, 09:33 PM   #111
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I don't know if this was posted already, but there was this Incident near Somalia where Pirates attacked a Cruise Liner with RPG. The ship used some kind of Sound Cannon to repel them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_range_acoustic_device

Maybe soon it will be like in the old days where Trade Ships were armed to the Teeth with Cannons to defend against Pirates...
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Old November 10th, 2006, 04:14 AM   #112
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The coast off Somalia is quite lawless, and there have been numerous pirate attacks in recent memory.
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Old February 6th, 2007, 03:39 AM   #113
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Pirate attack: three nations fight a modern scourge

LANGKAWI, Malaysia, Feb 4, 2007 (AFP) - The alert crackles over walkie-talkies -- a cargo ship has been attacked by pirates, crew members have been taken hostage and two others are drifting at sea in a lifeboat.

In calm seas and under clear blue skies, marine security forces from Japan, Malaysia and Thailand swing into action, launching a dramatic rescue operation involving patrol boats and helicopters.

Only this time, it's an exercise, the first combining the three nations in the notoriously piracy-prone Malacca Strait, one of the world's most important waterways and Southeast Asia's equivalent of the Panama Canal.

With nearly all of the oil powering its economy travelling through the Strait, Japan has said it is willing to help guard the waterway and has stepped up aid to fight piracy on the high seas.

The Japanese Coast Guard's patrol vessel "Yashima" played the role of the "Juliet", a hijacked Japanese cargo ship, and steamed north from Malaysia's resort island of Langkawi into Thai waters for the exercise last Friday.

A Malaysian policeman in pirate rig -- khaki trousers, a green paisley shirt and matching bandana -- lounged on the Yashima's decks waiting for his turn in the exercise off Thailand's Phuket island.

"He is the chief of pirates," joked a fellow Malaysian police officer.

Despite the smiles, officials were anxious to see how well the three countries coordinated efforts to deal with attacks, working across language barriers and different operating styles.

Deputy superintendent of a Malaysian special operations squadron, Abdul Razak Mohamad Yusof, was watching keenly to see how his commandos performed.

"How fast they can board the ship from a helicopter and how vigorously they move clearing the deck looking for perpetrators, how do they perform the searching, the clearance. And how they neutralise the enemy," he said.

After receiving the alert over the walkie-talkie, a Thai patrol boat sped to rescue the two crew members, throwing a tow rope to their life raft and hauling them on board.

Marine police from Thailand and Malaysia and the Japan Coast Guard then prepared to chase pirates who were making a getaway, and board the stricken "Juliet" to arrest two remaining pirates who had taken the crew hostage.

In a movie-style climax to the three-hour exercise, Malaysian special forces commandos rappelled from a helicopter onto the bow of the Yashima, backed by rocket sound effects and pea-green smoke.

Two pirates were chased around the ship by the commandos and other masked Malaysian police before a shootout.

The sullen "pirates" were forced to the ground, their guns kicked away and their wrists cuffed -- although one commando struggled to quickly fix plastic handties onto a pirate.

The exercise was part of Japan's efforts to boost cooperation with Southeast Asian countries around the Malacca Strait, which is bounded by the littoral states of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Ships from Europe, the Middle East and Asia carrying about one-third of global trade pass through the waterway annually, while some 11 million barrels of oil pass through it daily.

But the Strait is notoriously prone to attacks from pirates looking for money, equipment and valuable cargo.

In one incident in July last year, pirates attacked an Indonesian-flagged vessel chartered by the United Nations carrying tsunami relief cargo to northern Sumatra, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

Over a five-year period from 2002 to 2006, pirate attacks reached their peak when 38 were recorded in 2004, and governments and analysts have warned terrorists could also use the narrow sea lane to launch strikes.

Littoral states have substantially increased sea and air patrols in recent years, pumping in resources to curb the scourge in efforts which lead to a decline in attacks to 12 in 2005, and then 11 in 2006, according to the IMB.

But lingering anxiety over its safety have translated into offers of security assistance not only from Japan, but from Australia, Britain, China, New Zealand and the United States.
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Old February 15th, 2007, 09:40 AM   #114
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China's Pirates Boast Colorful History
By MIN LEE
14 February 2007

HONG KONG (AP) - While Western pirates are a familiar feature of Hollywood movies, Disney is introducing a Chinese sea bandit in "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End."

Capt. Sao Feng -- played by Chow Yun-fat -- is a key figure in saving Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from the world of the dead in the third installment of the megahit movie series, due out May 25.

Production photos show him with a bald head, long nails and long, thin mustache. He's wearing several layers of dark green armor and a jade ring on his pinky finger.

Sao Feng is fictional, of course.

But what were real Chinese pirates like?

They wore bright silk costumes and ate the hearts of their enemies to strike fear in their subjects, historians say. In some parts of China, they overwhelmed the navy and served as a de facto government, regulating trade and collecting taxes.

Much of the heritage of Chinese pirates traces back to Hong Kong. Lantau island, where modern jetliners take off today at Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok airport, was the site of a major battle between pirates and the imperial Chinese navy in 1809.

The city was such a pirate stronghold that navigational charts of that era referred to the Hong Kong group of islands as "Ladrones" -- Portuguese for robbers.

The outlying island of Cheung Chau has an idyllic fishing village -- and a famous legend, the great pirate Zhang Baozai.

While Zhang is believed to have operated in Hong Kong waters, no evidence suggests he was ever based in Cheung Chau. But that hasn't stopped the legend from growing.

Tucked under a pile of large rocks along the southern coastline of Cheung Chau is a narrow passageway mythically believed to be one of Zhang's lairs. It's one of the island's major tourist attractions.

Zhang's legend is enhanced by his colorful personal life. As a youngster, he was adopted by the pirate Zheng Yi and his wife Zheng Yisao and became his stepfather's boy lover. After Zheng Yi's death, Zhang married his stepmother and had a child with her.

Zhang was said to have been tall and charismatic, according to research by the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. The museum's director, Stephen Davies, said Zhang was known to wear flamboyant purple or red silk gowns.

Rank-and-file pirates dressed in duller colors faded by sunlight and washing and stained with tar, blood and waterproofing tung oil, according to Davies. A 19th century scroll depicting the 1809 battle off Lantau island shows pirates wearing loose blue frocks and white pants with blue socks pulled up to knee level.

Zhang was religious, always worshipping the gods before taking action, and was keenly interested in Western weaponry.

Pirates from Zhang's era fought with swords, pole guns and pike heads.

The average Chinese pirate ship was smaller and not as well armed as its Western counterparts, historians say. They were mainly seized junks averaging about 40 feet long, with smaller junks deployed to navigate inland creeks.

The junks carried fewer cannons than in the West because less-sophisticated Chinese ship building technology limited the vessels' ability to handle ammunition recoil.

But battleships from the imperial government -- often converted rice transport ships -- were even smaller and more poorly armed.

Zhang's fleet crushed the Chinese navy, more than halving its fleet from 165 ships to 72 in two battles in 1808 and 1809.
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Old February 27th, 2007, 02:11 AM   #115
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Pirates hijack UN-chartered ship near Somalia

MOGADISHU, Feb 25, 2007 (AFP) - Pirates hijacked a UN-chartered freighter off the coast of northeastern Somalia Sunday after the ship delivered food aid to the stricken nation.

It was the first time pirates hijacked a boat near Somalia since Ethiopian troops helped government fighters oust a powerful Islamist movement from Mogadishu late last year.

The incident has stoked fears of a new surge in once-rampant piracy.

The freighter, MV Rozen, was seized after delivering 1,800 tonnes of food aid to the towns of Bosasso and Berbera in the Somali region of Puntland, UN World Food Programme spokeswoman Stephanie Savariaud told AFP. The vessel was headed to to its home port in Mombasa, Kenya.

"It was hijacked this morning at about 9:30 am (0630 GMT) ... near the town of Bargal," she said, days after Kenyan officials warned of a possible resurgence of piracy off the Horn of Africa.

"As it was heading home, the heavily-armed pirates emerged from a motorboat, they jumped in the ship and seized it," Andrew Mwangura, of the international Seafarers Assistance Programme told AFP.

"The captain managed to communicate somehow to Sri Lanka. Then the message was sent to Mombasa before the gunmen cut off communications."

The identity of the pirates remains unknown, but such attacks in the past been blamed on a well organised cartel of Somalis who usually use speed boats mounted with machine guns.

An official from the Motaku Shipping Company that chartered the boat confirmed from Bosasu that it had been hijacked off the semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

He said the ship was carrying a flag from the Caribbean islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

"We are not sure where the ship is right now," Abdulaziz Mohamed Hamud told AFP by telephone.

The vessel had 12 crew members -- six Sri Lankans, including the captain, and six Kenyans.

"I do not know what I will tell the relatives of the crew when they start camping outside my office tomorrow," Motaku company manager Karim Kudrath told AFP by telephone from the head office in Mombasa.

Kudrath said it was the fourth time one of the company's ships had been hijacked off Somalia.

The MV Rozen itself narrowly escaped an attempted hijack off Somalia last March after another UN humanitarian delivery.

"We are the only shipping company that has agreed to take food to Somalia," Kudrath said.

"I am very doubtful if we will continue to offer our services to Somalia. It is getting very difficult for us."

WFP warned that such acts of piracy would undermine the delivery of relief food to Somalia and further aggravate the desperate humanitarian situation there.

"This is an indication that piracy has returned to Somalia," Mwangura said.

Waters off the unpatrolled 3,700-kilometer (2,300-mile) Somali coastline saw scores of pirate attacks between March 2005 and June last year, when Islamists seized Mogadishu and then moved into much of southern and central Somalia.

Earlier this month, Kenyan maritime officials monitoring the pirate-infested east African coast said raiders had returned to the Somali settlement of Haradere, about 300 kilometres (185 miles) north of Mogadishu, after briefly scattering in the face of Islamist rule.
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Old February 28th, 2007, 03:54 AM   #116
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Six suspected Somali pirates arrested after hijacking U.N. food aid ship, U.N. says
27 February 2007

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Somali authorities have arrested six suspected pirates in the hijacking of a U.N.-chartered cargo ship delivering food aid, officials said Tuesday.

Four heavily-armed pirates still had control of the vessel and were holding 12 crew members hostage, said the U.N food agency. The ship, the MV Rozen, had been contracted to deliver aid to Somalia, where around 1 million people are suffering from a drought that hit the region last year.

Four suspects were seized after they went ashore to buy supplies, Peter Goossens, the head of the World Food Program in Somalia, said in a statement. Sa'id Mohamed Raage, the regional fishing minister, said police arrested two others separately.

"The arrest is welcome news, but the safe release of the crew and the vessel remains our chief concern," Goossens said. "We very much hope this ordeal will finish soon."

The pirates are armed with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, said Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Program, an independent group that monitors piracy in the region.

"Negotiations are under way to try and secure the release of the vessel," he added. The condition of the six Sri Lankan and six Kenyan crew members was unknown.

The ship had just delivered about 1,900 tons of food when it was seized Sunday. It has been anchored six miles off the coast of the semiautonomous Puntland region in northeastern Somalia, near Bargal.

Last March, the same ship managed to escape an attempted hijacking by five pirates. Motaku Shipping, the owner of the MV Rozen, has had all four of its ships seized by pirates in the last two years, according to a report in The Shipping Times.

Three Somali police speedboats were surrounding the MV Rozen and a U.S. military vessel was patrolling the area Tuesday to monitor the situation.

"We are appealing for the safe return of the crew and the vessel as soon as possible, and for people to respect the need for humanitarian delivery corridors," Goossens said. "Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world, and there are families whose lives depend on our ability to get food aid through."

Somali pirates are trained fighters, often dressed in military fatigues, using speedboats equipped with satellite phones and Global Positioning System equipment. They are typically armed with automatic weapons, anti-tank rocket launchers and various types of grenades, according to the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia.

The bandits target passenger, cargo and fishing vessels for ransom or loot.

The 1,860-mile coast of Somalia, which has had no effective government since warlords ousted a dictatorship in 1991 and then turned on each other, has become extremely dangerous for ships.

In southern Somalia, fisherman Mohamed Abdi said U.S. Marine or Navy officers took fishermen from eight boats to their ship about 500 miles off the coast to question them about ties to the pirates and Somalia's Islamic movement that was ousted in December.

"We urge government officials to plead our case to the U.S. government because the interruption affects our earnings. We use boats for fishing, but not for other illegal purposes. We are not sea pirates and we are not sympathizers of terrorists," Abdi said by phone from Marka, a port 56 miles southwest of Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

Fishing Marine Resources Minister Hassan Abshir Farah said the U.S. officials' actions were acceptable because Somalia does not have its own coast guard and its coastline "has been considered one of the worst waters in the world."

----

Associated Press writers Salad Duhul and Mohamed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu, Somalia, contributed to this report.
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 04:10 PM   #117
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Pirates hijack ship off Somali coast
By ANITA POWELL, Associated Press Writer
Tue Apr 3, 6:33 AM ET

Somali pirates armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades have hijacked a cargo ship as it was preparing to dock at Mogadishu port, officials said Tuesday.

The vessel, the MV Nimatullah, was delivering nearly 900 tons of cargo when about 10 pirates in a speedboat overpowered the 14-member crew early Monday, said Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Program.

"The crew told us by telephone that they had been hijacked by Somali pirates," said Hussein Ali Jillow, a Somali businessman who hired the cargo ship. "The crew did not say anything about their conditions."

No ransom has been demanded, Mwangura added.

In February, Somali pirates seized a U.N. chartered vessel that had just delivered food aid in northeastern Somalia. The 12 crew still remain hostage.

The 1,860 mile-coast of Somalia, which has had no effective government since warlords ousted a dictatorship in 1991 and then turned on each other, has emerged as one of the most dangerous areas for ships.

Somali pirates are trained fighters, often dressed in military fatigues, using speedboats equipped with satellite phones and Global Positioning System equipment. They are typically armed with automatic weapons, anti-tank rocket launchers and various types of grenades, according to the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia.

In 2005, two ships carrying U.N. World Food Program aid were overwhelmed by pirates. The number of overall reported at-sea hijackings that year was 35, compared with two in 2004, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
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Old April 18th, 2007, 07:36 AM   #118
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Piracy in Southeast Asian seas dropped in 1st quarter of 2007, study shows
17 April 2007

SINGAPORE (AP) - Pirate attacks in Southeast Asian sea lanes fell to their lowest level in five years in the first quarter of 2007 due to increased patrols and other anti-piracy measures, according to a report by Singapore researchers.

So far this year, there have been 10 reported armed robberies and other piracy attacks and two attempted attacks, said the report, released this week by Nanyang Technological University researchers.

"These figures continue to suggest that the overall number of attacks in the region appears to be trending downward,' said the report.

It also noted a decrease in violence, with only one of the reported cases involving firearms. Unlike the first quarters of the last five years, there were no ship hijackings or kidnaps for ransom.

More than half of the attacks took place in Indonesian ports and anchorages, and the others in the Malacca Strait and the territorial waters of Vietnam and Malaysia, said the report, the second on regional piracy by NTU.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore began coordinating their sea patrols of the narrow Malacca Strait -- through which half the world's oil trade and a third of global commerce pass -- in July 2004 and started air patrols in 2005.

Frequent attacks in the Malacca Strait had caused leading international shipping insurer Lloyd's to give the waterway a "war-risk" rating in 2005. That designation was lifted last August, with the insurer saying security had improved due to long-term security measures.

Jane Chan, an associate research fellow at NTU, that the figures for the study were compiled from weekly updates issued by London's International Maritime Bureau and newspaper reports.

Chan's co-authors were Lt. Col. Joshua Ho, a Singapore Navy officer and senior fellow at NTU's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 06:39 AM   #119
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Seafarers warned to be on alert in Malacca Strait

KUALA LUMPUR, April 22, 2007 (AFP) - The International Maritime Bureau on Sunday warned seafarers to remain on alert while travelling on the piracy-prone Malacca Strait despite a fall in attacks.

Pottengal Mukundan, London-based director of IMB, told AFP that there was "no room for complacency," since pirates were merely lying low due to aggressive patrols by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Mukundan said if the three Southeast Asian countries that border the Malacca Strait let up in their patrols, "pirate attacks will rise again."

Maintaining and securing the waterway has always been regarded as the responsibility of the littoral states that border the sea lane -- Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The three Southeast Asian countries have implemented several security measures, including coordinated air and sea patrols, to secure the Malacca Strait, one of the world's most important and busiest waterways.

Mukundan said the IMB welcomed any move by the littoral states to upgrade security in the strait, including joint patrols.

"It will be a great step forward to improve security in the strait. It will be a great help to the industry," he said.

Malaysia recently said it was ready to study ways to boost security in the Malacca Strait, including conducting sensitive joint maritime patrols with Indonesia and Singapore.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said there were "regional sensitivities" to overcome -- joint patrols could allow warships from one country to enter another's territorial waters -- but flagged Malaysia could warm to the plan.

More than 30 percent of world trade passes through the strait, and the volume of traffic has increased dramatically, with more than 62,600 ships using the strait in 2005, up 42 percent from 44,000 ships in 1999.

Half of the world's oil shipments travel through the waterway.

Mukundan said a new problem posing a risk to seafarers was the rise in incidents of hostage-taking and kidnapping.

"It is a worrying trend, especially in Somalia and Nigeria," he said, referring to incidents in the first three months of 2007. He declined to elaborate.

The IMB will release its first quarter piracy report on Tuesday.

Mukundan said last year 263 crew were taken hostage or kidnapped worldwide, adding that three people had not been recovered, "believed to be killed."

In June, maritime experts and enforcement agencies will gather in Malaysia to discuss new challenges to seafarers worldwide at an event organised by the IMB and a local law enforcement agency.
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Old May 16th, 2007, 05:27 AM   #120
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Pirates attack British ship off West African coast
14 May 2007

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) - Machete-wielding pirates boarded a British cargo ship over the weekend, forced its crew to disembark and stole the ship, the vessel's captain said Monday.

A U.N. helicopter saw the 3,500-ton ship being towed away and one person was arrested in connection with the incident, U.N. spokesman Ben Malor said.

Two boats towed the vessel deep into neighboring Ivory Coast's waters, Malor said.

The ship, the MV Tahoma Reefer, ran into engine problems off Liberia's coast and docked in Monrovia, where the crew was awaiting mechanical help, said Volodymr Shteynberh, the ship's captain. Four days after it docked Saturday, two fishing boats approached the cargo ship and around 25 pirates jumped aboard brandishing machetes, Shteynberh said.

The captain said three crew members were injured before the ship was towed away in the direction of Ivory Coast. "Two received cuts on their heads," Shteynberh said.

The ship was carrying several thousand tons of fuel used to power the vessel.

Shteynberh said he was worried that if the fuel spills into the ocean, "it will cause serious ecological problems for the coast and for the region."

The ship was sailing under the flag of the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
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