Saturday, September 27, 2008

Somali Pirates and the Iranian "Mystery Ship"

Galrahn recently (9/24) posted about the mysterious Iranian ship Deyanat. His post contains some interesting speculation but I am not sure we know enough yet to be ranging too far into "what it might mean."

I reported on the seizure with the mystery cargo early on (see here, here), followed up with a link to the Long War Journal post before Galrahn set out his take on the story.

Note that the initial report here mentions "arms." The Long War Journal refers to mysterious deaths among the pirates:
Within days, pirates who had boarded the ship developed strange health complications, skin burns and loss of hair. Independent sources tell The Long War Journal that a number of pirates have also died. "Yes, some of them have died. I do not know exactly how many but the information that I am getting is that some of them have died," Andrew Mwangura, Director of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Program, said Friday when reached by phone in Mombasa.

News about the illness and the toxic cargo quickly reached Garowe, seat of the government for the autonomous region of Puntland. Angered over the wave of piracy and suspicious about the Iranian ship, authorities dispatched a delegation led by Minister of Minerals and Oil Hassan Allore Osman to investigate the situation on September 4. Osman also confirmed to The Long War Journal that during the six days he negotiated with the pirates members of the syndicate had become sick and died. "That ship is unusual," he said. "It is not carrying a normal shipment."
I distrust first reports, especially partial first reports and I have taken a "wait and see" position on this particular ship. It does seem odd that the pirates report death and illness, but there are no reports of health issues with the crew...

Galrahn does offer up the possibility of a Russian rescue of the Iranian ship, based on early reports of Russian ships headed to the area.

I note that the Russians are sending a single frigate to join ( or parallel) the international coalition formed into CTF 150 patrolling the area. The Malaysians are sending 3 ships to do the same and the Indians are thinking of sending a ship or two. This just seems like the way the fight against piracy ought to work- nations affected by disturbances in this chokepoint with the capability to respond ought to be involved and not relying on others to protect their sea lines of communication.

It seems to me, at first blush, to be very speculative that the Russians are going to deal with either an Iranian ship or a Belize flagged Ukrainian ship in which they have no known interest. Especially with one frigate.

But it is, as I've said before, a situation worth keeping an eye on.

Ship photo from Shipspotting.com credited to Reinier Meuleman. Larger image available there.

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