The New York Times October 4, 2012
WASHINGTON — It seemed like a simple idea: In the chaos that is Somalia, create a sophisticated, highly trained fighting force that could finally defeat the pirates terrorizing the shipping lanes off the Somali coast.
But the creation of the Puntland Maritime Police Force was anything but simple. It involved dozens of South African mercenaries and the shadowy security firm that employed them, millions of dollars in secret payments by the United Arab Emirates, a former clandestine officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, and Erik Prince, the billionaire former head of Blackwater Worldwide who was residing at the time in the emirates.
And its fate makes the story of the pirate hunters for hire a case study in the inherent dangers in the outsourced wars in Somalia, where the United States and other countries have relied on proxy forces and armed private contractors to battle pirates and, increasingly, Islamic militants.
That strategy has had some success, including a recent offensive by Kenyan and African Union troops to push the militant group Al Shabab from its stronghold in the port city of Kismayu.
But with the antipiracy army now abandoned by its sponsors, the hundreds of half-trained and well-armed members of the Puntland Maritime Police Force have been left to fend for themselves at a desert camp carved out of the sand, perhaps to join up with the pirates or Qaeda-linked militants or to sell themselves to the highest bidder in Somalia’s clan wars — yet another dangerous element in the Somali mix.
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
The Independent March 10, 2012
Western workers are the civilian mercenaries of Africa. They are easy to spot in the continent’s airports. Generally white and casually dressed, they travel in groups of three or four. They often seem to speak with Scottish accents and have little or no hand luggage, except possibly an iPad. And they are such seasoned travellers that they are generally the last to leave the bar when the flight is called.
“You do it for the money and only for a few years,” said a Scottish welder I met recently at Luanda airport in Angola. All he knew of the country was the international airport and a hotel nearby where he had stayed while waiting for his helicopter transfer to the rig.
He works a 30/30 schedule: non-stop, 12 hours a day for 30 days, followed by a month off for £40,000 per year. That is the favoured work rhythm of employed oil workers who are a long way from home. Others work short stints for different companies as freelance contractors.
The untrained, entry-level staff, with no qualifications can expect to earn about £100 a day, but skilled staff can expect much more: senior construction project managers can pocket as much as £150,000 a year for their work, often much more than they could earn at home. In Nigeria, a project manager can take home £65,000 for helping to build hotels, according to one careers website yesterday.
The welder, a single man, said the best and worst aspect of his work was the monotony: jobs are narrowly defined for safety reasons but there also few surprises: “No bills to pay, no everyday dramas to deal with. They are waiting for me back home,” he said. He was travelling back to Britain with a pipe fitter, a mechanic and a scaffolder, all working the same shift pattern.
Sites housing hundreds of expat specialists have everything: internet, swimming pool, gym and satellite television. Accommodation is five-star and is kept functioning by an army of housekeepers, plumbers and galley hands.
The downside is that the work takes place in remote and often dangerous regions where they risk being kidnapped or worse, as this week’s events showed.
The companies involved are expected to provide security for their workers, but as message boards suggested yesterday, some areas of Africa, particularly Nigeria, remain highly dangerous for expat workers.
“I spent three months in Somalia two years ago and if u [sic] think Iraq is dangerous Somalia is much worse… The Niger Delta isn’t much better. Having worked a lot in Africa I would advise u [sic] to think very carefully about going there at all,” said one blogger.
Pretoria News February 26, 2012
Eight months after SA-linked private military company Saracen International was fingered in a UN Security Council as the “most egregious threat” to peace and security in the failed state of Somalia, Saracen continues to run and train a private army in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Saracen, one of a cluster of shadowy private military contractors born from the ashes of the SA/British mercenary outfit Executive Outcomes, after nearly 18 months of military activity in the region, has yet to secure permission to operate as a security provider in a region so volatile Somalia has not had a functioning central government for upwards of 20 years.
Tlali Tlali, the spokesman for the National Conventional Arms Control Committee, confirmed that neither the SA arm of the Saracen operation, nor any of the individuals associated with the Somali adventure had applied for accreditation as legitimate security contractors.
UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) co-ordinator Matthew Bryden confirmed the company had failed to seek or secure authorisation from the international authority to operate as a private military contractor in Somalia after being fingered in the Monitoring Group’s June 2011 report.
We understand that the UN is in possession of compelling evidence that Saracen has continued with military training and deployment in defiance of the UN’s general arms embargo. The continuing violations of UN Resolutions 1973 and 1976 are expected to be addressed in detail in the SEMG’s forthcoming annual report at midyear.
Saracen’s operation in Somalia is headed by Executive Outcomes stalwart and – until the mercenary outfit was disbanded – holding company director, Lafras Luitingh. Luitingh is also a director of Australian African Global Investments (AAGI) the company primarily involved in logistical supply and procurement for the operation
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.
U.S. Navy Seals free American and Dane hostages from pirates in Somalia after being kidnapped in October.
Malta Today January 25, 2012
The two hostages were working for the Danish Demining Group (DDG), a refugee council, and were kidnapped in October in the semi-autonomous Galmudug region.
American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Hagen Thisted were rescued in a rare raid into the Horn of African nation by the helicopters in an attempt to free foreign captives.
Nine pirates were killed and five captured during the rescue operation according to Galmadug’s president, Mohamed Ahmed Alim who added that he was negotiating to secure the release of an American journalist kidnapped on Saturday.
Alim said attacks on pirate bases were very rare and thanked the U.S. for their intervention because pirates were considered the mafia in the region.
Two teams of U.S. Navy Seals landed by helicopter after a gun fight with the kidnappers and took the freed hostages to an undisclosed location
IRIN January 12, 2012
NAIROBI, 12 January 2012 (IRIN) – One of the few aid agencies excluded from a ban imposed by Al-Shabaab insurgents in Somalia has suspended food and seed distributions to 1.1m people in the south and centre of the country after local authorities repeatedly blocked its deliveries.
“The suspension will continue until we receive assurances from the authorities controlling those areas that distributions can take place unimpeded and reach all those in need, as previously agreed,” said Patrick Vial, the head of the ICRC delegation for Somalia, in a statement released on 12 January.
Without specifically mentioning Al Shabaab, which controls most of the region, the ICRC said deliveries intended for 240,000 people in the Middle Shabelle and Galgaduud had been blocked since mid-December 2011.
“We are actively seeking the cooperation of the local authorities to restore conditions that will allow the resumption of the suspended activities as soon as possible,” Vial said
(CNN) — Three aid workers — an American woman, a Danish man and a Somali man — have been kidnapped in Somalia, the Danish Demining Group said Tuesday.
Investigations are under way to find out what has happened to the three staff members, the group, which is part of the Danish Refugee Council, said in an online statement.
“We are keeping close contact with the family members, who are deeply concerned, just as we are,” said Ann Mary Olsen, head of the Danish Refugee Council’s international department.
The three workers were kidnapped by gunmen after visiting humanitarian projects, the council said. No shots were fired during the kidnapping, it said.
“The staff members are highly experienced and trained to work in high-risk places, such as Somalia,” Olsen added.
Denmark’s foreign minister, Villy Sovndal, told CNN’s Danish affiliate TV2 the situation is “very serious.”
“Our Africa office here at the Foreign Ministry is collecting information on what has happened. We are following it minute by minute. We are doing everything we can,” he said.
“We do not negotiate with kidnappers, but we offer all help and support that we can. But what this help will constitute we can’t say until we get all the facts on what has happened.”
Villads Zahle, head of press for the council, told CNN the three were working for the Danish Demining Group in northern Galkayo, considered part of Somalia’s Puntland province, at the time of the abduction.
The group does “humanitarian demining,” Zahle said, aimed at making civilians safe from landmines and unexploded ordnance.
The news that the workers were missing was confirmed by the council’s office in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, he added.
All Danish Refugee Group activities in the area have been temporarily suspended, the council’s online statement said.
Several high-profile abductions of foreigners have occurred in recent weeks in Kenya, close to the border with largely lawless Somalia. Those kidnappings have been blamed on the Somali Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says officials are working with the Somali government to free Italian sailors held by pirates.
Frattani, speaking on Italian TV, said new measures against the Somali pirates were agreed upon at the United Nations summit in New York last week, ANSA reported. Frattani told the father of one of the captives the government and intelligence groups are taking action along the Somali coast where 11 crew members from two Italian ships are being held.
Frattini said he and Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali have had long discussions and agreed to a joint action. An international agreement reached earlier this year forbids governments from paying ransom to the pirates.
“In the past we have succeeded in freeing other ships with patience and undercover work. Intelligence services have been mobilized,” Frattini said.
They shot one of Van Blerk’s South African Bancroft colleagues as well as a contractor from a demining company and 10 Ugandan soldiers trained in bomb disposal. The demining contractor and six of the Ugandans died. Dark trails of blood smear the floor inside the house where the trainer crawled for cover. Another Bancroft employee was shot in the stomach the day before but survived.
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — On the front lines of Mogadishu’s streets, Islamist militants battle African Union troops. Standing alongside the peacekeepers are members of an American-run team of advisers, former military men who play a little-known but key role in the war against al-Shabab.
Aside from covert raids by special operations forces, the U.S. government has not been involved militarily in Somalia since the intervention almost two decades ago that culminated in the Black Hawk Down battle. But a Washington-based company has been quietly working in one of the world’s most dangerous cities to help an AU peacekeeping force protect the Somali government from al-Qaida-linked Islamist insurgents.
While troops struggle to get control of this shattered capital that has been filling with refugees fleeing famine in southern Somalia, The Associated Press got rare access to the military advisers, providing a first look into their work.
The men employed by Bancroft Global Development live in small trailers near Mogadishu’s airport but often go into the field. It’s dangerous work — two Bancroft men were wounded last month.
Among the advisers are a retired general from the British marines, an ex-French soldier involved in a coup in Comoros 16 years ago, and a Danish political scientist.
Funded by the United Nations and the U.S. State Department, Bancroft has provided training in a range of military services, from bomb disposal and sniper training to handing out police uniforms
Violence against medical personnel in areas of unrest costing millions of lives, according to ICRC report
Global Development at The Guardian UK August 10, 2011
Attacks on doctors and healthcare workers in conflicts from Somalia to Afghanistan have a drastic knock-on effect by jeopardising the health of millions, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a report on Wednesday.
“Violence that prevents the delivery of healthcare is currently one of the most urgent, yet overlooked, humanitarian tragedies,” Yves Daccord, ICRC director-general, said in a statement. “Hospitals in Sri Lanka and Somalia have been shelled, ambulances in Libya shot at, paramedics in Colombia killed, and wounded people in Afghanistan forced to languish for hours in vehicles held up in checkpoint queues. The issue has been staring us in the face for years. It must end.”
According to Dr Robin Coupland, who led research carried out in 16 countries, millions could be spared if the delivery of healthcare were more widely respected.
“The most shocking finding is that people die in large numbers not because they are direct victims of a roadside bomb or a shooting,” he said. “They die because the ambulance does not get there in time, because healthcare personnel are prevented from doing their work, because hospitals are themselves targets of attacks or simply because the environment is too dangerous for effective healthcare to be delivered