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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Somalia: Death by Piracy

In Somalia about 1/2 the population depends on getting food from outside sources, especially the World Food Program. Now, not only are gangs (clans) attacking aid workers and other food distributors, one of the few successful Somali industries, piracy, is making matters worse. So bad in fact, that the WFP is contemplating engaging private contractors to escort its food ships - since the world's navies seem long on talk but short on action in supporting the WFP:
Gunmen in Somalia have shot dead three elders distributing aid in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Mogadishu.

The killings are being linked to a wave of apparently targeted attacks on humanitarian workers.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme has warned that it may have to use private security companies to protect its vessels from pirate attacks in Somalia.

The agency has been sending food ships without protective escorts after a Dutch naval mission ended last month.

The WFP country director for Somalia, Peter Goossens, told the BBC the threat of piracy was putting at risk vital food aid for millions of people in Somalia.

"The problem is twofold - the ships themselves can get hijacked and we lose the food... my biggest problem is that I can't find enough vessels that are willing to do this work for me unless they get an escort," he said.

Mr Goossens warned that the country was at a dire crossroads, with the risk of a famine similar to the early 1990s, when hundreds of thousands died.

He added that the UN had spoken to various naval powers who might provide military escorts to aid WFP ships, including Britain, Sweden and India.

He said he was grateful for their expressions of interest, but now wanted action.
Private contractors may not be loved...but if the money is there along with immunity from Somali and other prosecution, then I would guess they may be the only reliable source to which the WFP can look for shipping security. Especially since no one from any first, second or third world country really wants anything that smacks anything like ownership of the failed state of Somalia.

In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of lives teeter on the brink because of the pirates of Somalia...

Earlier suggestion of using "UN Police" can be found here (and in the comments). At least one comment concerns the use of an armed fishing trawler as an escort - which might work, but I believe a little more speed would be desired for an escort ship.

According to this, Risk Consultants International may be buying patrol boats:
Risk Consultants International Ltd has bought six Hugin and Kaparen class patrol boats for "patrolling Africas coast". The boats is of course now stripped of gun and sensors but should be a fairly nice platform to add stuff to.
UPDATE: Aljazeera coverage:
"Leading powers?" - there are enough other naval powers in the world to lend a hand - where are the navies of Turkey or Pakistan or Russia or China? Notice whose flag that is on the food bundles? How about some financial aid from the OPEC group?

A WFP video can be watched here.

UPDATE: (7/20/08) maybe it's just me, but I'm having trouble tying this headline U.S. targets Somali pirates with any content in the article suggesting that the headline is true:
In response to pirate attacks, the U.S. has stepped up its patrols to deter them and sometimes intervened to rescue hostages and ships. It also has increased its intelligence-sharing in the area, says Navy Lt. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the 5th Fleet in Bahrain, which patrols Middle Eastern and African waters.

The U.S. is "very concerned about the increasing number of acts of piracy and armed robbery" off the Somali coast, he says. Somalia's weak government has admitted it can't control its territorial waters, and Nigeria is fending off a rebel group.

A U.N. Security Council resolution, pushed by the U.S. and passed June 2, allows the U.S. and its coalition allies to intervene by "all necessary means" for the next six months to stop piracy off the Somali coast. Coalition ships have since scared off pirates in at least two attacks, says the London-based International Maritime Bureau.

I dunno. To me "targeting" means just that.

Something like putting an AC-130 gunship into action along the known pirate havens in Somali.

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