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Friday, May 05, 2006

Somali anti-pirate militia has an effect


According to this source, the Somali anti-pirate militia I posted about recently is having an impact already:
[A] Group of Somali pirates are reported to have been trapped on an oil tanker which they have recently hijacked it near Elmaan port of northern Mogadishu after the residents of Harardhere district in central Somalia formed militia designed to stop pirates from stationing in the area.

About seven pirates and 18 crewmembers have been stranded on the ship after they couldn't afford to come offshore due to armed militia who vowed to protect Harardhere area against pirates, as Ahmed Ali Sheik 'Gamase' who is the commander of anti piracy militia told Shabelle radio.
Nice.

UPDATE: A couple of weeks ago I received an email from the Executive Partner of an outfit named Protocol, which is self-described as a " private intelligence and security specialist company." In addition to the email, access was allowed to some of the work product of Protocol in the form of intelligence reports sent to subscribers under the title of Strategic Insights. I asked for and was granted permission to share some of the information contained in these publications with you provided I attributed such quotes to Protocol. While all three of the issues have interesting and valuable maritime security topics, one piece in the most recent issue of Strategic Insights seems quite relevant at this point. The article, "The Pirates of the Horn - State Collapse and the Maritime Threat" by Dr Stig Jarle Hansen and Atle Mesoy, offer up some excellent point when considering the nature of the Somali pirate threat. Let me offer up a few excerpts:
Somali politics, although confused and complex, is far from as anarchic as
many believe it to be. Warlords and several regional administrations have created zones
of relative stability; this has impact on the frequency of pirate attacks. Most of the larger
faction leaders, warlords and regional administrations, are engaged in negotiations with
outside partners. They want to position themselves in the current peace process, and are
thus keen to satisfy the interests of the international society. The piracy attacks are, with
some notable exceptions that will be explained later, concentrated in the waters outside
areas where no major factions hold control. The rapid increase in frequency, the relative
new equipment, and geographical concentration also indicates the existence of new and
relatively geographically concentrated pirate groups.
***
Piracy incidents seem to be related to the size and strength of the factions
controlling the adjacent land. This is indeed not surprising. More powerful warlords, or
regional administrations, are interested in maintaining their chances to position
themselves in the ongoing peace process. They usually travel abroad, have a high profile
and have relatively easily identifiable assets outside Somalia. All these factors make
them vulnerable to outside pressure. Small factions have no prospects of gaining power
in the international peace negotiations. Such factions can, as they are more incognito,
travel more anonymously and will have less chances of being caught. Larger warlords
and regional administrations thus have a potential interest in quelling piracy in order to
maintain cordial relations with e.g. Kenya, United States and Ethiopia. They have stakes
in the current peace process, and many of them also have informal alliances with foreign
powers. Smaller factions hold no similar interests, perhaps explaining the differences in
frequencies of attacks between different geographical areas.

Importantly, the waters adjacent to the strongest military and political actor in Somalia,
Somaliland, did not see any piracy incidents in 2005. Somaliland, located in the northwest
of Somalia, has been peaceful for the last ten years, and is in large functioning as a
democracy. They have held three internationally recognized democratic elections.4
Somaliland tries to achieve independence from the rest of Somalia, and have gone to a
great length in order to sway the international community in order to gain support for this.
Piracy would damage their cause beyond repair, and the government, pushed by the two
oppositional parties, has to avoid this at all costs.
***

In the areas from the southern borderlands of
Puntland down to El-Maan, several weaker military factions struggle for power. There are
no structures of power reassembling the strong warlords of Mogadishu, the Puntland
administration and the Somaliland administration. In the regions of Mudug and
Galguduud, the political situation is influenced by the frequent fighting between militias of
the Hawiye clan, with members of the Majerteen sub clan of the Darood joining in.
Because of the weakness of the factions in these regions, they are too small to have an
interest in the ongoing peace process, and can not be punished by international sanctions against their representatives in this process, indeed they are too small to be directly represented. Moreover, their limited size means that they lack the foreign allies many of the larger factions have, allies that might put pressure on them to halt piracy.
Indeed, it is in the coastal areas of Mudug and Galguduud that pirate attacks are most
frequent.

One of the sea towns in the region, Harardhere, is in general viewed to be the base of
several of the pirate attacks. Several ships that were captured by pirates in 2005, as the
Grenadines-registered Semlow, and the Somali-owned Ibn Batouta, have been towed to
Harardhere, and many ships, as the San Carlos have been attacked close to it. The
pirates from Harardhere have been operating as far south as El Maan. They have also
been known to tow the boats to the city of Eyl, just inside the borders of Puntland. Many
ships have been hijacked by the so called "Somali Coast Guard". Despite having an
official spokesperson, Mohammed Hassan, the "Somali Coast Guard", has no
connections with regional administrations, no budgets and bear the characteristics of a
clandestine operation. They have e.g. attacked United Nations ships with relief aid, and
accused them of fishing illegally although they lacked fishing equipment.
The areas outside Mudug and Galguduud, are the most dangerous of the Somali waters.
The geographical concentration around Harardhere, and the increase in frequency of
attacks over the last year might indicate that a small number of new groups, perhaps only
one, are behind the surge in recent attacks.
The article goes on to note that the prime motivation for the Somali pirates to date has been gaining ransom payments for the captured ships and crews and that almost always the ransom has been paid.

What about "pirates as terrorists" (or "terrorists as pirates")? The authors offer some interesting insight:
There are many rumours about connections between pirates and al-Qaeda, and its local
ally, Al-Itthad-al-Islamiya. There are however several factors to keep in mind when
examining these rumours. Belligerents in the Somali conflict actively label their enemies
as al-Qaeda or partners of al-Qaeda as a way to gain support from foreign powers. A
member of the Somaliland parliament for example openly claimed that the Somalilenders
should "“invent"” local al-Qaeda cells in order to receive money and recognition from the
United States. There is also a booming "“industry"” in Mogadishu of kidnapping traders of
Arabic origins and attempting to sell them to western intelligence as members of al-
Qaeda or locally affiliated groups. In addition, there are economic incentives amongst the
newspapers for reporting such stories, giving them new readers as well as attention.
I guess you might say that there is always a market for that for which you are willing to pay.

Finally, in keeping with the opening topic of this post, the article discusses countermeasures to the pirates of Somalia. These include the ships of Combined Task Force 150 (as aside for those unfamiliar with the military nomeclature - a "combined " task force means that it has units for more than one nation - CTF 150 has units from the US, Germany, Holland, France and Pakistan, among others), as well as "local partnerships." By these, the authors are referring to the less chaotic parts of Somalia such as Puntland and Somaliland, in which some degree of order has been hammered out. Further, another option is mentioned in the article:
A last option is to use local allies in order to quell warlords. This strategy has yielded
significant gains in the war on terror. Suleiman Ahmed Hemed Salim, also known as
"Chuck Norris" or "Issa Tanzania", involved in the al-Qaeda network, was snatched from
the Keysane Hospital in northern Mogadishu in April 2003, and handed over to the
Kenyans. According to the militia of the implicated warlords, Bashir Raghe and
Muhammed Dhere, the Americans were behind this action. Interestingly, these two
warlords are geographically within striking distance of Harardhere, although an attempt to
arrest pirates in this town will demand more resources than the snatching of Issa
Tanzania. Similarly, the Juba Valley Alliance might be geographically close enough to the
suspected bases of piracy in the south. Such strategies open up for ethical questions, but
might be most efficient under the current circumstances.
It is this final option that intrigues me in light of the sudden formation of the anti-piracy militia. Is this a savvy effort by a greater power? Or a spontaneous eruption of desire by the locals to put an end to that which has plagued them? Or something else?

Thanks again to Protocol for allowing me to share these thoughts.

UPDATE2: Added the UNOSAT map of piracy off the Somali coast. Added Protocol map of Somalia with Somaliland and Puntland identified for reference purposes. Now you can conveniently compare incidents of piracy or attempted piracy off Somalia with geographic location.

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