Somali pirates less a scourge of the seas as private security firms proliferate
The Daily Exclusive Benjamin Carlson July 30, 2012
Somali pirate attacks are plunging — thanks, in part, to a group of heavily armed ex-Navy SEALs putting their skills to use in the private sector.
In the first six months of 2012, pirate attacks plummeted 33 percent, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Through June, Somali pirates made 69 attacks, resulting in 212 captured hostages. That was down from 163 attacks in the same six-month period in 2011.
Piracy hit its highest point last year, with attacks on 544 ships from the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean.
One of the biggest factors spurring the drop is the use of maritime security companies that specialize in anti-piracy.
“The fact of the matter is, if you didn’t have private armed guards, it would definitely be much more dangerous — the drop would not have been so significant,” said Michael Frodl, chairman of C-Level Maritime Risks, a consulting company.
For $50,000 per voyage, shipping companies can hire a team of four ex-Navy SEALs to accompany their vessel on a 10-day voyage through the most dangerous waters in the world — the Gulf of Aden, Straits of Malacca and northern Indian Ocean — to thwart hijackings and hostage-taking.
How good are they? Thus far, not a single ship that has had armed guards aboard has been taken, said Doug Brooks, president of the International Stability Operations Association. “It’s a 100 percent solution.”
at Danish Demining Group May 29, 2012
The Trans Federal Government in Somalia has decided to join the Mine Ban Treaty of the United Nations. The mine action unit within the Danish Refugee Council recognizes and supports the development.
Somalia is one of the regions in Africa most contaminated by mines. As the last African country to officially ban use of landmines, Somalia has now agreed to destroy all stockpiles no later than 1 October 2016 and to clear all contaminated land no later than 1 October 2022.
In addition to this, Somalia is obliged to provide assistance to the thousands of mine victims. Somalia has never produced mines, but it is assessed that around 200 communities are contaminated by mines.
At least 159 casualties of landmines and explosive remnants of war in Somalia (excluding Somaliland) where recorded in 2010, including 19 children killed and 86 children injured. The true casualty figure is likely to be much higher.
“Joining the international Mine Ban Treaty happens despite ongoing conflict and shows that Somalia now recognizes the humanitarian impact of landmines,” says Klaus Ljørring Pedersen, DDG Regional Director for Horn of Africa & Yemen
BBC Africa May 29, 2012
But unlike other private security firms which put guards on board other people’s ships, it will offer vessels of its own.
The chief executive of Typhon, Anthony Sharpe, says the plan is to rendezvous with cargo ships which sign up for their protection and form them into a convoy.
The company says it will establish what it is describing as an exclusion zone of one kilometre around the ships.
The company is buying three boats, which are currently being fitted out in Singapore.
Each of its craft will have up to 40 security officers, drawn from former British Royal Marines, as well as a crew of 20.
The ships will be fitted with machine guns and the staff will have rifles.
But Mr Sharpe told the BBC it is not a question of out-gunning the pirates.
“It’s not about lethal force matching lethal force,” he said.
“It’s more like applying a burglar alarm to the problem and the thief will be deterred – so will be looking elsewhere.”
The boot camp here, known as the Singo Training School, is operated by the Ugandan military, but the instruction is overseen by MPRI, a subsidiary of L-3 Communications, based in the District. It is one of four State Department contractors that are training African troops for Somalia.
The Washington Post May 13, 2012
KAKOLA, Uganda — The heart of the Obama administration’s strategy for fighting al-Qaeda militants in Somalia can be found next to a cow pasture here, a thousand miles from the front lines.
Under the gaze of American instructors, gangly Ugandan recruits are taught to carry rifles, dodge roadside bombs and avoid shooting one another by accident. In one obstacle course dubbed “Little Mogadishu,” the Ugandans learn the basics of urban warfare as they patrol a mock city block of tumble-down buildings and rusty shipping containers designed to resemble the battered and dangerous Somali capital.
“Death is Here! No One Leaves,” warns the fake graffiti, which, a little oddly, is spray-painted in English instead of Somali. “GUNS $ BOOMS,” reads another menacing tag.
Despite the warnings, the number of recruits graduating from this boot camp — built with U.S. taxpayer money and staffed by State Department contractors — has increased in recent months. The current class of 3,500 Ugandan soldiers, the biggest since the camp opened five years ago, is preparing to deploy to Somalia to join a growing international force composed entirely of African troops but largely financed by Washington.
Bloomberg May 9, 2012
At first the video depicts a seemingly calm, sun-drenched sea from aboard the Avocet, until a pale blue skiff appears in the distance, cutting rapidly across the Indian Ocean toward the bulk ship’s starboard side.
After a tense radio exchange between the ship’s armed guards, who believe they’re under attack by pirates, their team leader steps through the bridge door and orders warning shots. Immediately, he and another guard fire dozens of rounds at the oncoming boat. The blaze of gunfire continues after the skiff crashes into the ship, with guards shooting down into the vessel, and as it then trails behind the Avocet.
“Second skiff coming in,” he shouts, then they turn and begin firing on the new boat, and the video ends.
At least some of the boats’ occupants were probably killed or injured, said Thomas Rothrauff, president of Virginia Beach, Virginia-based Trident Group Inc., which provided the ship’s security crew. He said the incident on March 25 last year was the second attempt to hijack the Avocet in three days. After spotting rocket-propelled grenades on the first skiff, the guards feared for their lives. The shootings were justified and the guards acted responsibly, Rothrauff said, firing warnings before aiming at the boat.
The gunfire exchange highlights a lack of rules governing the use of weapons on the high seas amid questions over how much force is legal and necessary to fight Somali piracy attacks, which targeted a record 237 ships last year. The video, presented at a shipping conference in December and leaked on the internet last month, has fueled debate over when is it acceptable to open fire — and to keep shooting
AP at Fox News April 28, 2012
A South African security trainer was killed by his bodyguard in Somalia’s semiautonomous region of Puntland, officials said Saturday.
Puntland’s government said in a statement Saturday that it had launched an investigation into Friday’s killing. The statement identified the man as Lodewyk Pietersen, and said he worked for Saracen International, a security firm that trains anti-piracy forces in Puntland. The statement said the South African was 55 and married with children.
South African foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela said Saturday no official word has been received from consular staff handling South African interests in Somalia.
“We have not yet been alerted to such an incident,” he said.
The statement said the trainer was killed while accompanying Puntland’s maritime forces on a government-approved mission targeting pirates near Hul-Anod, a coastal area favored by pirates who use it as a base to hijack ships for ransom.
Pietersen was shot dead by his Somali bodyguard after an argument, according to a Puntland official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the matter. The official said Puntland’s security forces were hunting for the killer
Associated Press March 22, 2012
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Private security firms are storing their guns aboard floating armories in international waters so ships that want armed anti-piracy guards for East Africa’s pirate-infested waters can cut costs and circumvent laws limiting the import and export of weapons, industry officials say.
Companies and legal experts say the operation of the armories is a “legal gray area” because few, if any, governments have laws governing the practice. Some security companies have simply not informed the governments of the flag their ship is flying, industry officials said.
Some members of the private security sector are urging governments and industry leaders to impose standards on the unchecked practice of storing weapons offshore to equip anti-pirate forces off Somalia’s coast.
Storing guns on boats offshore really took off as a business last year. Britain — where many of the operators are from — is investigating the legality of the practice, which has received little publicity outside of shipping industry circles.
Floating armories have become a viable business in the wake of increased security practices by the maritime industry, which has struggled for years to combat attacks by Somali pirates. But those in the industry say the standards vary widely
Daily Beast March 21, 2012
On Tuesday afternoon, in the small inland Somali town of Adado, law enforcement officials gazed skyward as a single-engine aircraft circled close overhead. The plane—a U.K.-owned KingAir 200 operated by the British company Phoenix Aviation and reportedly chartered by the British private security firm Salama Fikira—dropped a sack containing an estimated $800,000 to $1 million in cash. The stash was ransom for 56-year-old Judith Tebbutt, a British citizen held hostage for nearly seven months by Somali pirates.
Adado has been a hotbed of hostage rescues this year: Navy SEALs staged a dramatic operation to recover American Jessica Buchanan from the town in January. Tebbutt had been in the pirates’ possession since September 11 of last year, when a Somali gang kidnapped her from an upscale resort in a remote region of Kenya near Somalia’s lawless border. During the abduction, the pirates shot and killed her husband, David; then slipped into a boat and glided north into the country that even locals call “the Land of Death”.
Tebbutt’s initial captors, a dozen or so fishermen and former hotel employees in the area, are thought to be originally from the Bajuni islands in Kenya, and are purported to have connections with the radical Somali terror group Al-Shabab. They sold Tebbutt to a second band of pirates based in Haradhere, on the northern Somali coast. The group that received the ransom this week was from the Ceyr and Saleeban—two parts of the large Hawiye clan—and the gangleader is known to be a man called Bashir.
UPI SecurityIndustry March 19, 2012
WASHINGTON, March 19 (UPI) — Pirate attacks on merchant vessels in Africa pose a threat with ripple effects for U.S. homeland security and must be tackled as such, security industry experts say.
The industry’s experts want specialist teams from commercial security firms deployed on every ship that sails in the danger zone in east Africa, where most recent piracy incidents have taken place.
“Success at sea by the early Somali pirates has attracted major organized-crime syndicates, Muslim extremists and a more robust and sophisticated confederacy of operatives,” Jim Jorrie, chief executive officer of ESPADA marine services argued in the March 2012 issue of Homeland Security Today magazine.
“While this is all happening half a world away, it has put more operating cash in the hands of extremists, including al-Qaida — and that should be of no small concern for us in the United States,” Jorrie said
The Estonian private security company ESC Global Security fended off pirates attempting to hijack a Greek freighter off the Somali coast on Tuesday.
The incident occurred around 15:00 local time by the Port of Salalah. Eight pirates, armed with AK-47 assault rifles and one RPG, were aboard an approaching vessel, according to the company.
“[The security company] opened fire after all other deterrence measures had been tried and failed to discourage the pirates,” said Jaanus Rahumägi, company director and former MP.
Meanwhile, the company contacted the forces of the EU naval operation in Somalia, which prepared to dispatch a chopper for backup. But at 16:00 the pirates retreated and reinforcements were not needed
In September 2011, as the monsoon began to blow itself out, there were grave warnings from a number of sources and analysts that the shipping industry could expect to see a significant surge in pirate activity as conditions in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean became more favorable. Captain Keith Blount, chief of staff with EU NAVFOR, told the press1, “I think we are going to see a surge in piracy because we always have done at this time when the southwest monsoon abates and the seas become flatter.”
But as conditions cleared, the anticipated increase in pirate activity failed to materialize, to the surprise of many in the industry. This was all the more remarkable given the business model of Somali pirates, which demands that they hijack high value targets which can be ransomed for huge sums which are then used to pay off the investors who supply the equipment used by the pirates, their food and that of their hostages and so on. Without a reasonable turnover of hijacked vessels, pirates begin to run up big bills in their home ports and those cut into their profit margins. Pirates towards the end of 2011 were very much on the back foot, and successful hijackings were suddenly few and far between.
Jeremy Scahill at The Nation September 11, 2012
The notorious Somali paramilitary warlord who goes by the nom de guerre Indha Adde, or White Eyes, walks alongside trenches on the outskirts of Mogadishu’s Bakara Market once occupied by fighters from the Shabab, the Islamic militant group that has pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda.
In one of the trenches, the foot of a corpse pokes out from a makeshift grave consisting of some sand dumped loosely over the body. One of Indha Adde’s militiamen says the body is that of a foreigner who fought alongside the Shabab. “We bury their dead, and we also capture them alive,” says Indha Adde in a low, raspy voice. “We take care of them if they are Somali, but if we capture a foreigner we execute them so that others will see we have no mercy
Despite such thug talk, Indha Adde is not simply a warlord, at least not officially, anymore. Nowadays, he is addressed as Gen. Yusuf Mohamed Siad, and he wears a Somali military uniform, complete with red beret and three stars on his shoulder. His weapons and his newfound legitimacy were bestowed upon him by the US-sponsored African Union force, known as AMISOM, that currently occupies large swaths of Mogadishu.
It is quite a turnabout. Five years ago, Indha Adde was one of Al Qaeda and the Shabab’s key paramilitary allies and a commander of one of the most powerful Islamic factions in Somalia fighting against foreign forces and the US-backed Somali government. He openly admits to having sheltered some of the most notorious Al Qaeda figures—including Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 1998 bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania—and to deceiving the CIA in order to protect the men. (Fazul was killed in June in Mogadishu.)
The Daily Mail January 21, 2012
Gunmen kidnapped an American man in the northern Somali town of Galkayo on Saturday, officials said.
The gunmen surrounded the man’s car shortly after the man left the airport, said policeman Abdi Hassan Nur, who witnessed the incident. He said they then forced the American into another vehicle.
Galkayo is on the border between the semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland and a region known as Galmudug. It is ruled by forces friendly to the U.N.-backed Somali government.
A minister from the Galmudug administration said the kidnapped man is an American engineer who came to Somalia to carry out an evaluation for building a deep water port in the town of Hobyo.
The gunmen severely beat the foreigner’s Somali companion when he begged them not to take the man, said the minister.
The minister spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
A staff member at the Embassy Hotel, where the man was staying, said the American had gone to the airport to drop off an Indian colleague. The hotel said that the man had both American and German citizenship.
The staff member asked not to be identified because he was not supposed to give out information about guests.
Stratfor Global Intelligence January 13, 2012
The pirates’ area of operations contracted during the past year while the use of some countermeasures expanded.
Although these countermeasures might have helped curtail Somali piracy in 2011, significant improvements will not be likely until serious efforts are taken on land to eliminate havens for pirates.
Furthermore, piracy comes with a large economic incentive.
Even if the Somali pirates are displaced from their current havens, they likely will find ways to operate if there are no alternatives for making money — alternatives that are scarce in Somalia, which has no significant economic resources.