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Monday, May 11, 2009

Somali Pirates: Another "Beginning of the End?"

A usually reliable source has informed me that two leaders of Somali pirate groups (at least 30 hijacks between them, I am told) are under pressure from the Islamic courts to stop all hijacking by the end of this month, when the monsoon normally slows pirate activities anyway.

In other word, they have been told to "gather their rosebuds while they may..." but May is all they have.

These "pirate kings" have been told that failure to cooperate in a cessation of ship nabbing will result in serious sanctions - including being the threat of being killed.

In addition, mosques in Puntland have been told to inform their female attendees that the pirates are bringing shame to Somalia by their "sea robbery" and are not good Muslims.

The report also says that the pirate chiefs want infrastructure investment in Somalia in return for halting attacks - investments in Somalia's future, including improved education.

The Islamic courts have proved effective to slowing down piracy before. It remains to be seen whether that effect will work again. In the West there has been some concern that the Islamic courts are too "Talibanish" and may lead Somalia down the path of Afghanistan as an al Qaeda or other terrorist haven. The "West" is going to have to decide whether a more stable Somalia is worth some risk . . .

In the meantime, it would seem to me that a major slow down in pirate activity may result in some countries withdrawing their anti-piracy forces from the area, at least temporarily. Not that a bad idea to allow for refitting and refreshing the crews. I would hope that the various governments involved would sit down and work out details of creating means of better cooperation among the various naval elements off Somalia and a legal framework that will put an end to the "catch and release" programs when dealing with suspected pirates.

In somewhat related news, the weather forecast for the areas off Somalia where pirate attacks are likely to occur seem somewhat favorable for the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean off the Somali east coast, but not so much nearer to the Seychelles. Winds and wave charts from here (click to enlarge):

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