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Old May 17th, 2007, 08:07 AM   #121
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Somali gunmen seize Kenyan fishing vessels

NAIROBI, May 15, 2007 (AFP) - Somali gunmen on Tuesday captured two Kenyan fishing vessels off the Somali coast in one of an increasing number of pirate attacks in the area, a maritime official told AFP.

"The two Kenyan fishing vessels were hijacked today off the Somali coast, about 200 nautical miles from Mogadishu," said Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan branch of the international Seafarers Assistance Programme.

He had no further details but added that another ship, the Qatar-flagged MV-IBN Younus, had escaped an attempted attack on Monday.

Three men armed with machine guns and a rocket launcher attacked the boat on Monday afternoon some 180 nautical miles off Mogadishu, Mwangura said.

The boat escaped with some damage to its crew quarters but the crew were safe, he added.

The ship was carrying around 15,000 tonnes of cargo from South Africa to the Gulf states.

The 3,700-kilometer (2,300-mile) Somali coast saw scores of pirate attacks between March 2005 and June last year, but these stopped during six months of strict Islamist rule of south and central Somalia.

Ethiopian-Somali troops ousted the Islamists at the start of the year and recent weeks have seen a resurgence of pirate attacks off the unpatrolled Somali coast.
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Old May 18th, 2007, 04:53 AM   #122
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Pirates open fire on cargo ship; Malaysian watchdog warns key routes threatened
15 May 2007

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Pirates fired grenade launchers and machine guns at a cargo ship in the Indian Ocean far off the coast of Somalia, sparking concerns that key shipping routes are threatened, a Malaysia-based maritime watchdog said Tuesday.

The Qatar-flagged cargo ship, Ibn Younus, managed to escape during an hour-long chase as it headed from Durban in South Africa to Jebel Ali in Dubai after it was attacked Monday, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.

Choong said piracy was on the rise again in Somalia with Monday's attack the fifth since April.

Three men in a speed boat, armed with machine guns and grenade launchers, approached the ship and ordered it to stop, he said.

"They started firing with machine guns toward the bridge of the ship. The emergency alarm was raised and the ship took measures to prevent the pirates from boarding," Choong told The Associated Press.

"The pirates then opened fire with the grenade launcher and successfully hit the crew's cabins, causing severe damage," he said.

Choong said the ship took a zigzag course to evade the pirates and managed to escape. The ship's crew was safe and nobody was injured.

The attack -- Somalia's seventh at sea so far this year-- occurred 180 nautical miles off the coast, compared to previous raids that took place close to the shoreline, Choong said.

"We are concerned about this latest attack which happened so far off the coast of Somalia. It appears the old warlords are coming back. This trend is dangerous because it could disrupt shipping routes," Choong said.

Somalia lies close to crucial shipping routes connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean, where valuable cargo and carriers must pass.

Pirate attacks dropped to 10 last year in anarchy-wracked Somalia, from 35 in 2005, following increased patrols by Western naval ships, including U.S., Dutch and Belgian vessels.

"It has been more than a year since Somali pirates had gone so far out to sea to attack ships. We urge the coalition naval forces to beef up patrols before piracy gets out of hand again," he said.

The bureau has advised ships to stay at least 200 nautical miles off Somalia's coast, he added.

Somalia has had no effective government since 1991, when warlords ousted a dictatorship and then turned on each other. The country's 3,000-kilometer (1,880-mile) coastline makes it difficult to prevent attacks.
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Old May 22nd, 2007, 06:09 AM   #123
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Aid ship refuses to sail to Somalia as U.S. Navy warns vessels to stay clear of lawless coast
21 May 2007

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - A cargo ship carrying food for poor Somalis refused to leave Kenya on Monday because of rampant piracy, and the U.S. Navy warned vessels to stay clear of Somalia's lawless waters where everyone from aid workers to fishermen have become targets.

The U.N. World Food Program has appealed for international action to stamp out Somali pirates threatening the delivery of humanitarian supplies to the Horn of Africa country, which is trying to recover from the worst fighting in more than a decade.

The ship was loaded with 850 tons of food, but the shipping agency contracted by the WFP demanded the Kenyan government provide security for travel into Somali waters. On Saturday, pirates staged a failed hijack attempt on another WFP boat, killing a Somali guard.

"We need some sort of security to ply into Somali waters ... because they (Somali pirates) are everywhere. Now they are ashore, (and) very far off into the sea. It is becoming too much," Inayet Kudrati of the Motaku Shipping Agency said Monday.

A Kenyan government spokesman did not return calls for comment. Peter Smerdon, spokesman for WFP, said he had no comment on the contractor's security arrangements, as long as they were acceptable to Somali and Kenyan authorities.

Saturday's attack on the aid ship was the eighth this year off Somalia's 1,880-mile coast, which is near crucial shipping routes connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean.

Trained in combat during the anarchy that has gripped Somalia since the 1991 ouster of a dictatorship, the pirates are heavily armed and use speedboats equipped with satellite phones and GPS devices. The bandits target both passenger and cargo vessels for ransom or loot, using the money to buy weapons.

"Although there are coalition forces operating in the area, they cannot be everywhere monitoring every ship that passes the coast of Somalia," the U.S. Navy's Maritime Liaison Office in Bahrain said in a statement. It urged ships to stay 200 nautical miles off Somalia's coast.

In 2005, two ships carrying WFP aid were overwhelmed by pirates. The number of overall reported at-sea hijackings off Somalia that year was 35, compared with two in 2004, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Piracy is just one of the obstacles to distributing aid to the needy in this nation of 7 million peope.

A U.N.-backed government that has been struggling to exert control since 2004 is battling an Islamic movement that its troops defeated late last year with help from neighboring Ethiopia.

Ethiopian soldiers killed one person and injured another Monday after their convoy was targeted by a land mine in Mogadishu, the capital, witnesses said.

It was the latest in a series of explosions aimed at convoys carrying government officials or troops. The government blames the Islamic guerrillas, who have vowed to wage an Iraq-style insurgency until Somalia is ruled by the Quran.

At the end of April, the government declared victory over insurgents and Somalia's long-standing clan rivals in fighting in Mogadishu that drove about a fifth of the city's 2 million residents to flee. The battles killed at least 1,670 people between March 12 and April 26.

Although the capital is relatively calm now, sporadic bursts of deadly violence still erupt.

In Monday's attack on the Ethiopians' six-vehicle convoy, a land mine detonated in front of the first pickup truck, said one witness, Abdi Ma'alin, who was walking nearby.

"The explosion was so huge that it sent volumes of smoke into the sky," Ma'alin said.

The soldiers opened fire in all directions soon after the blast, and controlled the scene for 15 minutes before they drove away, said another witness, Sahal Sheik, who sells sheep at a small market nearby.

"I saw one civilian body lying on the curb, and another with blood on his shoulder running toward the residential neighborhoods," he said.

On Saturday, a bomb exploded near Mayor Mohamed Dheere's convoy, killing at least two civilians but missing Dheere. A bomb attack Thursday targeted the prime minister's convoy, but no one was hurt.

------

Associated Press writers Tom Maliti and Elizabeth A. Kennedy in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.
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Old June 5th, 2007, 03:19 AM   #124
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Indonesia wants help to secure waterway

SINGAPORE, June 3, 2007 (AFP) - Indonesia's defence minister called on Japan, China and South Korea on Sunday to help his cash-strapped nation secure the vital Malacca Straits, the busiest sea lane in the world.

Juwono Sudarsono asked the three nations, East Asia's wealthiest economies, to provide technical assistance for the Straits, which handles 40 percent of global trade and half of all oil shipments worldwide.

"What we lack in Indonesia is effective capacity to deploy resources, equipment, ships," he said at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference.

"We would like to appeal to China, Japan and South Korea to provide the technical assistance on an ASEAN-wide basis as well as on a bilateral basis to the littoral states," he said.

ASEAN is the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Indonesia had a huge responsibility to secure the sea lanes in the Malacca Straits because of its size and strategic location but did not have the financial means to do it all alone, said Sudarsono.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have implemented coordinated air patrols in the Straits but Jakarta faced limits on what it could do, he said.

"There is tremendous responsibility," he said. "But I am facing tremendous problems."

If Indonesia allocated more for its defence needs, it would mean less funding for the country's social and economic programmes like building more schools and hospitals, said Sudarsono.

Indonesia's defence budget is less than one percent of the country's annual gross domestic product of 400 billion US dollars, which translates into 3.2 billion dollars a year.

In comparison, Singapore, which has one of Asia's most modern armed forces, will increase its defence budget by 5.3 percent this year to an estimated 6.87 billion US dollars, according to the national budget.

"So the contrast is very stark," the Indonesian defence minister said, adding that was why the vast archipelago must work with its neighbours.

The prosperity of East Asia and Southeast Asia is heavily dependent on safety in the Malacca Straits, since the passageway accounts for 40 percent of global seaborne trade.

Half of the world's oil shipments also pass through the 960-kilometre (595-mile) Straits, the busiest seaway in the world. It links the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea and also passes Malaysia and Singapore.

"It's very important for us, it's very important for countries in the region and very important for the global economy," said Sudarsono.

He said the United States was still the dominant provider of security in the Asia-Pacific region but Japan and China, because of their economic might, would also want to be involved.

That would come "by enhancing their naval capabilities within Northeast Asia and across Southeast Asia because of the sea lines of communication and the links with energy security to the Gulf area," said Sudarsono.

Singapore Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean said any moves by Japan and China to extend their naval reach in the Malacca Straits, through which more than 70 percent of their oil imports passes, must be in line with international law.

"Japan and China are extending and strnegthening their maritime reach, to have a greater direct ability to influence the security of the sea routes through which their energy supplies pass," said Teo.

"While this is to be expected, countries in the region also expect that this should be done in a way which is constructive, and which is consistent with international law."
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Old August 1st, 2007, 02:41 PM   #125
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Global watchdog's new security hot line to boost war against maritime terrorism
1 August 2007

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - A global maritime watchdog agency on Wednesday opened a 24-hour communication hot line where callers can anonymously relay information on sea piracy, crime and terrorism.

The hot line, run by the London-based International Maritime Bureau's piracy center in Kuala Lumpur, includes phone, fax, telex and e-mail, said the center's chief, Noel Choong.

"It is a good concept. Shipyard workers or ship crew may know something but most are reluctant to report to the police or to the ship owner because they are afraid of being detained or of losing their job," Choong told The Associated Press.

"Now we are giving them an option to report to us. It will be a big boost to fighting crime and terrorism at sea," he said.

He said the center hopes the hot line will garner information on a range of criminal activities at sea including drug smuggling.

The IMB will assess the reliability of the information before passing it to law enforcement agencies in the countries concerned, who will have to verify if the threat is real, he said.

The IMB issued a notice Wednesday to alert seafarers, port workers, shipping agents, shipyards, brokers and stevedores worldwide of the hot line, Choong said.

"All information received will be treated in strict confidence," the notice said. "With your help, we can try to minimize the risks and help save lives and properties."

The IMB has warned that piracy could be on the rise after attacks increased sharply worldwide in the second quarter this year to 85 from 66 in the same period a year earlier, and compared to only 41 in the previous quarter.

The industry is also concerned about the threat of maritime terrorism, especially in the Malacca Strait which carries half the world's oil trade and a third of global commerce.

Pirate attacks in the waterway have declined in the past three years after Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore introduced coordinated security patrols, but concerns still linger that militants could hijack a ship carrying hazardous material and use it as a floating bomb.

Some 200 ships use the straits every day to travel from Europe and the Middle East to Asia.

The hot line telephone number is +603-20310014, the fax number is +603-20785769 and the e-mail address is [email protected]. The telex number is MA34199 IMBPCI.
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Old August 16th, 2007, 11:25 AM   #126
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Watchdog urges swift action against pirates in Malacca Strait

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 15, 2007 (AFP) - An international maritime watchdog on Wednesday urged authorities to move swiftly to prevent another spate of pirate attacks in the Malacca Strait following a kidnapping this week.

On Monday, 10 heavily armed pirates boarded a barge carrying steel billets from Malaysia's northern Penang state and seized the ship master and engineer, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's (IMB) reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur.

The gunmen left six other crew members unharmed, but destroyed the barge's communication system before fleeing.

The attack is the third in the waterway this year, but the first time since July 2005 that crew members have been kidnapped, Choong said.

"We urge the ... authorities to take quick action to immediately contain this problem. We are concerned that it would be the start of another series of kidnappings in the area," Choong told AFP.

He said that if unchecked, the situation had the potential to deteriorate into something similar to Somalia, where pirates frequently board and hijack ships on the long unpatrolled coastline.

More than 30 percent of world trade and half of the world's oil shipments pass through the Malacca Strait, which is shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

The kidnappers were suspected to be Indonesians, sources said, but wished to remain anonymous.

Experts say Indonesia is the weak link in fighting piracy in the strait, amid international concern that the waterway could be used for terrorist attacks.

Malaysian police in June warned that there was a "real and possible" threat of terrorism in the area. It also vowed greater maritime cooperation with Indonesia in patrolling the waterway.

The stretch has been prone to piracy in the past, but international pressure has led to a more concerted effort at joint patrols.

Pirate attacks have dropped in the past three years as a result, Choong said.

Owners of the vessel boarded on Monday are now trying to establish contact with the pirates to secure the release of the kidnapped men, he added.

"Mostly likely they will demand ransom. They had no interest in the vessel and its cargo," Choong said, adding that the barge and its remaining crew were taken by authorities to a nearby port in Belawan, Indonesia.
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Old August 24th, 2007, 12:11 PM   #127
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Danish ship owner paid ransom to Somali pirates to release crew of hijacked ship
23 August 2007

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) - The owner of a Danish cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates paid a ransom to have the vessel and its five-man crew released after more than 80 days in captivity, a Foreign Ministry official said Thursday.

The Danica White had been on its way from Dubai to the Kenyan port of Mombasa when it was seized by Somali pirates June 1.

The ransom was paid Aug. 12, 10 days before the ship and its Danish crew were handed over to a French warship, said Lars Thuesen, head of the Danish Foreign Ministry's consular department.

He said "the ship owner and those who have financial interests in the ship and its cargo" paid to secure the crew's release, but declined to say how much.

The pirates had demanded US$1.5 million (euro1.1 million).

Danish shipping company H. Folmer & Co., which owns the Danica White, declined to give any details about the negotiations with the pirates.

"If we give details other Danish sailors risk being exposed to new hijacking," the company told the Berlingske Tidende newspaper.

Hans Tino Hansen, of the Danish security company Protocol, who had commented on the hijacking in Danish media, denied any involvement in the negotiations.

Thuesen said the five crew members were not hurt physically during their 83-day ordeal, but said that captivity had been stressful psychologically.

He didn't reveal details of the handover, but said a French navy ship was involved.

The French are part of an international naval task force that has been combatting Somalia-based pirates who have been hijacking ships near the Arabian Peninsula.

The pirates are trained fighters, often dressed in military fatigues and using speedboats equipped with satellite phones and Global Positioning System technology. They target passenger and cargo vessels for ransom or loot, and use the money to buy weapons.

On Thursday, the Danica White was being escorted by French warship Commandant Blaison to Djibouti, on the horn of Africa, where it was expected to arrive this weekend, Thuesen said.
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Old August 29th, 2007, 04:06 AM   #128
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Pirates release 2 kidnapped in Malacca Strait after ransom is paid
27 August 2007

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Pirates have released two Indonesian crew members after a ransom was paid, a global maritime watchdog said Monday.

Gun-toting pirates attacked a Malaysian barge on Aug. 13 and abducted the ship master and chief engineer, both Indonesian.

The barge was carrying steel billets from Malaysia's northern state of Penang to Belawan in Indonesia when it was raided in the Malacca Strait.

It marked the third pirate attack in the busy waterway this year but the first since July 2005 in which ship crew were kidnapped.

Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, said the two were freed early Friday after a ransom was paid.

"We hope the Indonesian authorities will take swift action to detain the culprits to show they are serious in dealing with this problem," Choong told The Associated Press.

He also urged Indonesia to increase patrols in its waters to ensure that such kidnap and ransom cases, which were rampant before July 2005, would not become widespread again.

The strait is notorious for robberies and hijackings but the number of attacks has fallen since Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore -- which share the waterway -- launched coordinated maritime and air patrols in recent years to curb piracy.

Some 65,000 vessels pass through the Malacca Strait each year, carrying half the world's oil and more than a third of its commerce.
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Old September 7th, 2007, 04:25 AM   #129
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"Historic" cooperation reached on Malacca Straits safety

SINGAPORE, Sept 4, 2007 (AFP) - Southeast Asian nations have agreed to an "historic" cooperation mechanism to help improve safety in waterways which are vital to world trade, officials said Tuesday.

Delegates from Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia began three days of meetings to launch the new "Cooperative Mechanism" to enhance the safety of navigation and environmental protection in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.

One-third of the world's trade and half of the world's oil supply are carried through the Straits by about 90,000 vessels each year, said a document presented to the meeting.

"The importance of this meeting lies in the fact that it launches a new framework for cooperation in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore," said Efthimios Mitropoulos, Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation, a specialised United Nations agency.

"I view the Mechanism as an historic breakthrough of great significance," he said in a speech.

He told AFP the Mechanism "is the institutionalisation of the need to do something to ensure safe passage, safe and uninterrupted passage, through the Straits in all circumstances, in view of the tremendous significance, the strategic significance, of the Straits to seaborne trade and the world economy at large."

The cooperative framework aims to promote dialogue between the littoral states, users and other stakeholders, as well as coordination in implementing projects to promote safety of navigation and environmental protection.

Users of the Straits, the shipping industry, and others would be able to contribute financially or provide other assistance to the projects, the framework said.

In his speech, Mitropoulos said that with an increasing volume of shipping, it may not be fair for coastal states alone to bear the cost of providing adequate navigation aids.

"The time may, therefore, have come for all parties who benefit from the existence of a safe infrastructure in the Straits to reflect seriously on their collective social responsibilities and to find ways and means, possibly through voluntary contributions, to discharge their relevant social obligations."

Mitropoulos said the littoral states have identified six safety projects, two of which already have sponsors. China has undertaken to replace navigation aids damaged by a December, 2004 tsunami which devastated the region, he said, while China and the United States are working on preparednesss for hazardous material spills.

Funds will have to be secured for the other four projects, including a top-priority project to remove wrecks which pose a hazard, he said.
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Old October 18th, 2007, 12:36 PM   #130
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Piracy Off Somalia, Nigeria Increases
16 October 2007

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Pirate attacks worldwide jumped 14 percent in the first nine months of 2007, with the biggest increases off the poorly policed waters of Somalia and Nigeria, an international watchdog reported Tuesday.

Reported attacks in Somalia rose rapidly to 26 up from eight a year earlier, the London-based International Maritime Bureau said through its piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. And some of those hijackings have turned deadly.

"The seafaring industry is very concerned about this," said Cyrus Mody, a senior analyst with IMB. "There is absolutely no regard for law in that area. Not only is it not good for business in Africa, but it blocks humanitarian aid and is bad for the general stability of the continent."

The political instability in Somalia gave pirates "totally free rein without any sort of deterrence from the law," Mody said. "They've got a free hand right now."

Somalia has had 16 years of violence and anarchy, and is now led by a government battling to establish authority even in the capital. Its coasts are virtually unpoliced.

Piracy off Somalia increased this year after Ethiopian forces backing Somali government troops ousted an Islamic militia in December, said Andrew Mwangura, program coordinator of the Seafarers Assistance Program which independently monitors piracy in the region.

During the six months that the Council of Islamic Courts ruled most of southern Somalia, where Somali pirates are based, piracy abated, Mwangura said.

At one point, the Islamic group said it was sending scores of fighters to crack down on pirates there. Islamic fighters even stormed a hijacked, UAE-registered ship and recaptured it after a gunbattle in which pirates -- but no crew members -- were reportedly wounded.

In May, pirates complaining their demands had not been met killed a crew member a month after seizing a Taiwan-flagged fishing vessel off Somalia's northeastern coast.

Pirates even targeted vessels on humanitarian missions, such as the MV Rozen which was hijacked in February soon after it had delivered food aid to northeastern Somalia. The ship and its crew were released in April, but the World Food Program has since relied on more expensive air deliveries for Somalia.

Mwangura told The Associated Press that "some elements" in the Somali transitional federal government and some businessmen in Puntland, a northeastern Somalia region, are involved because "piracy is a lucrative business."

Somali government officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

IMB director Pottengal Mukundan urged ships to stay as far away as possible from the coasts of Somalia and Nigeria.

"The level of violence in high-risk areas remain unacceptable. Pirates in Somalia are operating with impunity, seizing vessels hundreds of miles off the coast and holding the vessel and crew to ransom, making no attempt to hide their activity," he said.

Indonesia remained the world's worst piracy hotspot, with 37 attacks in the first nine months of 2007. But that was an improvement from 40 in the same period a year earlier, IMB said.

Stephen Morrison, Director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said much piracy is linked to weak law of the sea and weak legal institutions.

"The pirates go out and hit ships with food relief cargo, they hit tourist liners," Morrison said. "There's a lawless environment with weak states and a weak institution. When there's opportunity, motivation and means, that's where there are clusters of piracy."

Oil-rich Nigeria suffered 26 pirate attacks so far this year, up from nine in the same period last year.

A Nigerian navy spokesman, Capt. Henry Babalola, said criminals are now targeting the most vulnerable vessels -- shipping trawlers -- because authorities have cracked down on crude oil theft. The pirates also seize valuable communications gear.

Mwangura said hundreds of thousands of dollars in ransom have been paid to secure the release of vessels hijacked this year and part of the money is, "paid through bank accounts of individuals in (Kenyan cities) Nairobi and Mombasa."

The IMB said Southeast Asia's Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest waterways, has been relatively quiet with 198 attacks on ships reported between January and September, up from 174 in the same period in 2006.

It said 15 vessels were hijacked, 63 crew members kidnapped and three killed.

Joint efforts by Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia have kept piracy under control in the Malacca Strait, Mody said. Those states had poured a considerate amount of additional resources into fighting piracy since last year, including increased patrolling and law enforcement on the water.

--------

Associated Press writers Dulue Mbachu in Lagos, Nigeria, Lily Hindy and Carley Petesch in New York contributed to this report.
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Old October 23rd, 2007, 12:21 PM   #131
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Somali pirates seize cargo ship off east African coast in spate of high-seas attacks
22 October 2007

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Somali pirates seized a cargo ship off the east African coast -- one in a series of high-seas attacks in the last week alone, officials said Monday.

Gunmen hijacked the ship last Wednesday, said Andrew Mwangura, the program coordinator of the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program. He did not know the number or nationalities of the crew on board.

Two other ships were attacked off the Somali coast on Saturday, with pirates firing on one of the boats, he said. And on Sunday, pirates in two speedboats attempted to seize a ship carrying cargo for the World Food Program -- the third attack on a WFP ship this year, said Peter Smerdon, a spokesman for the U.N. program.

Not counting the attacks of the past week, Somalia has had 26 reported hijackings this year -- compared to eight by this time last year, the International Maritime Bureau said.

Some hijackings have turned deadly: Pirates killed a crew member after seizing a Taiwan-flagged fishing vessel in May off the northeastern coast of Somalia.

The Almarjan, seized last Wednesday, was flying under a Comoros Island flag and was operated by Dubai-based Biyat International, Mwangura said. The incident took several days to confirm, he said Monday.

Mwangura said the rise in hijackings could be linked to the overthrow of an Islamic group that had cracked down on piracy after seizing control of the Somali capital and much of southern Somalia last year.

Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991, has been wracked by violence between the Islamic insurgents and government troops and their Ethiopian allies.

The country's coasts are virtually unpoliced, and the shaky, U.N.-backed transitional government comes under daily attack by insurgents.

In the latest attack in Mogadishu, two civilians and an unknown number of soldiers were killed after a truck full of soldiers exploded, witness Ali Mohamed said.

Government officials were not immeadiately available for comment.

------

Associated Press Writer Mohamed Sheikh Nor in Mogadishu, Somalia, contributed to this report.
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Old October 28th, 2007, 08:49 AM   #132
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Piracy On the Rise
29 October 2007
Traffic World

Piracy and armed robbery attacks against ships increased 14 percent in the first nine months of the year compared to the same period in 2006, the International Maritime Bureau said.

The bureau said 198 attacks were reported, compared with 174 attacks in the January-September period of 2006.

A total of 15 vessels were hijacked, 172 crewmembers were taken hostage, 63 were kidnapped and 21 were assaulted.

If this trend continues, the decline in piracy attacks begun in 2004 will have bottomed out, the agency said. Crew assaults, kidnapping and ransom rose dramatically from 2006.

The bureau said there was a slight increase in container ship attacks. Attacks against bulk carriers were down, but attacks on general cargo and tanker vessels increased.
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Old October 31st, 2007, 12:19 PM   #133
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US warships monitoring hijacked Japanese tanker off Somalia

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 31, 2007 (AFP) - US warships are monitoring a Japanese tanker which was hijacked by pirates last weekend off the coast of Somalia, a piracy watchdog said Wednesday.

"The pirates are still in control of the ship. They are believed to be armed," Noel Choong, the head of the International Maritime Bureau's (IMB's) Malaysia-based Piracy Reporting Centre, told AFP.

The vessel with 23 Korean, Filipino and Myanmar crew sent out a distress call that was relayed to the IMB last Sunday after pirates boarded the ship.

Choong said US warships in the area were observing the tanker which was in Somali territorial waters.

"Yes, coalition warships are monitoring the tanker," he said but declined further comments due to safety and security concerns for the seafarers.

On Tuesday, the US Navy helped the crew of a North Korean cargo vessel regain control of their freighter in a violent struggle after it was captured by pirates off Mogadishu port.

Maritime officials in Nairobi identified the Japanese vessel as the Panama-flagged Golden Mori and said it was seized about eight nautical miles off the Socotra archipelago.

The captain and chief engineer are Koreans, and the remainder of the crew are Filipinos and Myanmar nationals.

Choong said Somali waters were "dangerous to seafarers," and urged ships to keep 200 nautical miles off the coast and to be alert against "small and suspicious boats" that approach their ships.

"In the past two weeks, there has been a lot of attacks against ships off the coast of war-torn Somalia," he said.

There have been 31 attacks with one seafarer killed so far this year compared to 10 attacks and one seafarer killed last year.

The attacks stopped in the second half of 2006 during six months of strict rule by Islamists, who were ousted by Ethiopian and Somali government troops at the end of the year.

Somalia, which lies at the mouth of the Red Sea, has been without an effective government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre sparked a bloody power struggle.
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Old November 4th, 2007, 05:07 PM   #134
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Pirates Leave Ships Under US Navy Escort
4 November 2007

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Somali pirates left two boats they had hijacked in the waters off the Horn of Africa, and the newly liberated vessels -- and their crew of 24 -- were under U.S. Navy escort on Sunday, the American military said.

A U.S. Navy ship and helicopter were guiding the Tanzanian-flagged boats Mavuno 1 and 2 further out to sea, where naval personnel will later board the vessels and treat crew members, said Cmdr. Lydia Robertson of the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. The Navy is in radio contact with pirates aboard three other ships in the region, encouraging them also to leave those ships and sail back to Somalia, she told The Associated Press.

"We're very happy with this development and hope it happens with the other ships off the coast," Robertson said. "We're very happy for the crew and their families."

Robertson said the pirates boarded skiffs after they left the hijacked ships, and headed back to Somalia. No shots were fired during the incident, she said. She gave no more details.

The U.S. has now intervened four times in one week to help ships hijacked by Somali pirates. Sailors boarded a North Korean ship to give medical assistance to crew members who overpowered their hijackers, and a Naval vessel fired on pirate skiffs tied to a Japanese-owned ship.

Robertson said that ship was still under control of pirates, although the U.S. Navy was still working to free that ship from pirates. There were no details on the other two seized ships. Hijackings in the vast stretch of water frequently go unreported.

In South Korea, the Foreign Ministry said 24 sailors onboard the two Korean-owned ships seized May 15 off Somalia were safe. The ministry said the ships were being escorted to a port in Yemen by a U.S. Navy warship at the request of the South Korean government, the ministry said in a statement. The two dozen sailors were comprised 10 Chinese, four South Koreans, three Vietnamese, three Indians and four Indonesians.

South Korean media have reported that the Somali pirates were demanding between $700,000 and $1 million in ransom. Robertson had no comment on ransom demands, deferring to the shipping company.

Somalia lies close to crucial shipping routes connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean, where valuable cargo and carriers must pass.

Somalia has had no effective government since 1991, when warlords ousted a dictatorship and then turned on each other. The country's 1,880-mile coastline makes it difficult to prevent attacks.

Last year, another South Korean fishing vessel was captured off Somalia and released three months later after a ransom of more than $800,000 was paid.
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Old November 10th, 2007, 05:05 AM   #135
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NKorea grateful to US for helping sailors in Somali pirate standoff
8 November 2007

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea expressed rare gratitude Thursday to the U.S. for helping end a high-seas standoff with Somali pirates, the latest sign of warming ties between the longtime foes fostered by progress on Pyongyang's nuclear disarmament.

"The pirates' recent armed attack on our trading ship was a grave terrorist act perpetrated against a peaceful ship," the North's official Korean Central News Agency said. "We feel grateful to the United States for its assistance given to our crewmen."

The cooperation between the countries at sea was unprecedented, historians said.

The last notable maritime encounter between North Korea and the U.S. was in 1968 when the North seized the USS Pueblo while it was on an intelligence-gathering mission off the country's coast and held 82 Americans as prisoners of war for 11 months.

The vessel is the only active-duty U.S. warship in the hands of a foreign power, and remains on display as a tourist attraction in the North Korean capital.

In a dramatic turnabout to that event nearly four decades later, it was the U.S. Navy that came to the aid of the North Korean cargo ship Dai Hong Dan.

KCNA said Thursday that the USS James E. Williams and a helicopter rushed to the scene and "helped the (North Korean) sailors in fighting, threatening the pirates" via radio in the standoff, also noting that an American surgeon treated wounded crew.

Seven pirates boarded the vessel Oct. 29 disguised as guards while it was in port in Mogadishu, Somalia, demanding US$15,000 (euro10,189) and that they take them wherever they wanted, according to the unusually detailed report from KCNA, the North's main organ for delivering propaganda to the outside world.

The North Koreans fought back after seizing weapons from two pirates guarding the ship's engine room -- eventually gaining control of their vessel 20 hours after being taken captive and leaving one pirate dead, KCNA said.

"As shown by our crewmen through their actions, it is the disposition of the Korean people to fight out any terrorist act on the spot though they are empty-handed," the report said.

The U.S. Navy has said it boarded the North Korean ship to provide medical assistance at the crew's invitation after they had already overpowered all pirates.

Washington has downplayed the significance of its assistance the North as anything unusual -- even though it remains technically at war with Pyongyang since the Korean War ended in a 1953 cease-fire. The U.S. led a U.N.-authorized coalition in the three-year conflict, and 28,000 American troops remain deployed in South Korea.

"We fulfilled our responsibilities as a responsible member of international maritime organizations and treaties and responded to a distress signal on the high seas," U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday in response to the North's gratitude.

It was the second time in about two months for Pyongyang to thank Washington -- a rare move seen as reflecting the friendly mood between the two countries spawned by progress in their prolonged standoff over the North's nuclear weapons programs.

In September, the North's Foreign Ministry issued a statement thanking the U.S. for providing emergency relief supplies after the severest floods in decades devastated the impoverished nation.

Pyongyang shut down its sole functioning nuclear reactor in July under a February deal with the United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia in exchange for political and economic concessions. It is now moving to disable is atomic facilities by year-end under watch of U.S. experts, meaning they will not be able to be quickly restarted.

One of its key demands in exchange for cooperating on disarmament has been removal from a U.S. blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism.

In the Thursday report on the piracy incident, the first public mention by the North of the episode, Pyongyang sought to further advance such hopes -- saying the maritime collaboration as a "symbol of cooperation" between the two countries "in the struggle against terrorism."

"It is the consistent principled stand of the (North Korean) government to oppose all sorts of terrorism," KCNA said. "We will continue to render international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, in the future, too."

North Korea was put on the terror list for involvement in the 1987 bombing of a South Korean civilian jet that killed all 115 people aboard.
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Old November 14th, 2007, 11:04 AM   #136
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Two South Korean ships hijacked six months ago arrive in Yemen's southern port
13 November 2007

ADEN, Yemen (AP) - Two South Korean ships hijacked six months ago by Somali pirates arrived in Yemen's southern port of Aden on Tuesday.

Ali Ahmed Nasser, the director of the al-Awlaqy shipping agent company, said 21 crew members of the Mavuno 1 and 2 were taken to the Saber hospital in the al-Mansoura district for a medical checkup.

Nasser said the crew reported that the hijackers had stolen most of the communication equipment on the ships.

The pirates agreed to leave the ships Nov. 4 and headed back to Somalia. A U.S. Navy ship and a helicopter guided the boats further out to sea, where navy personnel boarded the vessels and gave the crew medical treatment.

The conditions of freeing the two ships were not known, but South Korean media have reported that the Somali pirates were demanding between US$700,000 and US$1 million in ransom.

South Korea at the time said all the sailors on board the two ships were safe and the Foreign Ministry said the ships were being escorted to Aden port at the request of the South Korean government. The sailors included 10 Chinese, four South Koreans, three Vietnamese, three Indians and four Indonesians.
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Old November 16th, 2007, 12:06 PM   #137
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Malaysia rebuffs US help in fighting Straits piracy

AFP - Thursday, November 15

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14, 2007 (AFP) - A Malaysian minister on Wednesday rejected US help in fighting piracy in the Malacca Straits, saying it was not necessary since attacks have decreased significantly in the area.

"There is no reason for them to come in to guard," Deputy Minister Abdul Rahman Suliman told parliament, according to state news agency Bernama. "The United States and other quarters cannot deny that it is safe."

The minister was not responding to any recent offers by the United States for help, but Kuala Lumpur has long been wary of US intentions in the Straits, and has repeatedly rejected plans for American anti-terrorism patrols.

More than 30 percent of world trade passes through the area, and rampant attacks by pirates in the past have caused concern for nations relying on fuel shipments.

Maintaining and securing the waterway has been deemed the responsibility of the states that border the sea lane: Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

An increase in sea and air patrols by those countries has been credited with driving reported attacks down to 11 in 2006, compared with 38 in 2004.

In 2004, Admiral Thomas Fargo, America's top military commander in the region, said Washington was considering the possibility of deploying troops to the Straits as part of counter-terrorism efforts in Southeast Asia.

However, he later clarified that such an intervention "has never been the intention of the US" and that Washington respected Malaysia's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
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Old November 16th, 2007, 05:15 PM   #138
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hetfield85 View Post
Malaysia rebuffs US help in fighting Straits piracy

AFP - Thursday, November 15
I notice the news have lately changed focus to Somalia with several high-profile hijackings.

Regional cooperation in info-sharing helps reduce robberies at sea
17 October 2007
Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE: The spate of petty robberies out at sea has dropped over the last three years, according to the information centre overseeing regional cooperation on combating piracy and armed robbery.

But the centre's deputy director, who spoke at a coastal surveillance conference, feels that more could be done to improve this situation, especially in preventing robberies at night when ships are docked at ports.

The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre is barely a year old, but it has already scored some achievements in areas such as capacity building and cooperation enhancement.

The ReCAAP's Deputy Director Nicholas Teo said: "One is to reach out to industry. Through our reports, we have been advocating that ships should report to the various coastal stations so that information can be very quickly addressed and passed on."

As a result, there have been improvements in the number of robberies out at sea. A total of 26 minor cases were recorded this year between January and June, down from 37 cases in the same period two years ago.

For the moderately serious cases, there has been a sharp drop from 22 cases between January and June last year to just four in the first six months of this year. More efforts are being planned to enhance cooperation among the countries which are taking part in the ReCAAP.

In fact, a major table-top exercise is being planned early next year to enhance various levels of cooperation.

Analysts said all this is important because nearly half of the world's oil supplies pass through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore, making these sea lines of communication critical for ships.

The two-day conference also has an exhibition displaying some of the latest acquisitions by shippers to prevent danger at sea.
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Old November 19th, 2007, 08:28 AM   #139
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Concern grows for ship seized by pirates off Somalia

NAIROBI, Nov 18, 2007 (AFP) - Communication has been lost with a Comoran-flagged cargo ship captured by pirates off the Somali coast last month, raising fears of the crew safety, a maritime monitoring group said on Saturday.

The MV Al Marjan, with 22 mostly Asian crew members on board, was seized on October 19 as it sailed to Mogadishu port from the United Arab Emirates port of Dubai.

"We are worried that the ship has cut communication with the owner and the rest of the world," said Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan branch of the Seafarers' Assistance Programme.

"This is the second week since it cut communication, which means there are no negotiations going. This is a very bad indicator on the fate of the crew," he told AFP.

The freighter is owned by Shahmir Maritime of Saint Vincent and Grenadines, but operated by Dubai-based Biyat International.

Mwangura explained that "cutting communication" between the pirated vessels and the outside world in the past has been an indication that "something bad" has happened onboard.

"When pirates killed a sailor in Ching Fong Hwa 168, they cut communication. That is why we are worried this time round," he said.

Ching Fong Hwa 168 was a Taiwanese-flagged ship seized by pirates in June before being released on November 5. One crew member was killed and another injured.

Mwangura said negotiations were underway to free Japanese tanker, Golden Nori -- believed to be carrying benzene -- that was kidnapped on October 28 with 23 crew members from Myanmar, Philippines and South Korea. Their condition is unknown.

The vessel was sailing from Singapore to Israel when its was seized.

"I expect that the pirates will ask for ransom of more than a million dollars to free the tanker," he told AFP.

Mwangura explained that the size of ransom normally depends on the cost, type and ownership of the cargo, the value and nationality of the ship as well as the nationality of the crew.

The Danish freighter, Danica White, was freed in August after nearly three months in the Somali coast after 1.5 million dollar ransom was paid.

The US Navy patrolling the Horn of Africa and Gulf of Aden waters has urged the pirates to abandon the vessels.

Rampant piracy off Somalia stopped in the second half of 2006 but resumed when an Islamist movement that had enforced strict rule was ousted by Ethiopian and Somali transitional government troops at the end of the year.

Several attacks have occurred this year off Somalia's 3,700 kilometres (2,300 miles) of unpatrolled coastline, prompting the International Maritime Bureau to advise sailors to steer clear from the coastline.

Somalia lies at the mouth of the Red Sea -- on a major trade route between Asia and Europe via the Suez canal -- and has lacked a functional government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
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Old November 20th, 2007, 06:37 PM   #140
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If the shipping line just be farther out to the ocean from the coast of somalia i'm sure the hijackings can be reduced. I dont think the pirates willing to go farther to the deep ocean.
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