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Friday, October 31, 2008

Somali Pirates: NYTimes notes they're "flourishing"

Reported in the NYTimes as Somalia’s Pirates Flourish in a Lawless Nation
In Somalia, it seems, crime does pay. Actually, it is one of the few industries that does.

“All you need is three guys and a little boat, and the next day you’re millionaires,” said Abdullahi Omar Qawden, a former captain in Somalia’s long-defunct navy.

People in Garoowe, a town south of Boosaaso, describe a certain high-rolling pirate swagger. Flush with cash, the pirates drive the biggest cars, run many of the town’s businesses — like hotels — and throw the best parties, residents say. Fatuma Abdul Kadir said she went to a pirate wedding in July that lasted two days, with nonstop dancing and goat meat, and a band flown in from neighboring Djibouti.

“It was wonderful,” said Ms. Fatuma, 21. “I’m now dating a pirate.”

This is too much for many Somali men to resist, and criminals from all across this bullet-pocked land are now flocking to Boosaaso and other notorious pirate dens along the craggy Somali shore. They have turned these waters into the most dangerous shipping lanes in the world.
Nor is it even clear whether Somali authorities universally want the piracy to stop. While many pirates have been arrested, several fishermen, Western researchers and more than a half-dozen pirates in jail spoke of nefarious relationships among fishing companies, private security contractors and Somali government officials, especially those working for the semiautonomous regional government of Puntland.

“Believe me, a lot of our money has gone straight into the government’s pockets,” said Farah Ismail Eid, a pirate who was captured in nearby Berbera and sentenced to 15 years in jail. His pirate team, he said, typically divided up the loot this way: 20 percent for their bosses, 20 percent for future missions (to cover essentials like guns, fuel and cigarettes), 30 percent for the gunmen on the ship and 30 percent for government officials.

Arctic Turf War

From the Heritage Foundation The New Cold War: Reviving the U.S. Presence in the Arctic:
As an Arctic nation, the United States has signif­icant geopolitical and geo-economic interests in the High North. The U.S. should not only have a place at the table, but also seek a leadership role in navi­gating the nascent challenges and opportunities, such as disputes over the Outer Continental Shelf, the navigation of Arctic sea-lanes, and commercial development of natural resources and fisheries.

To play this role and to vindicate its interests, the U.S. needs to continue swiftly mapping the Arctic, build a modern U.S. icebreaker fleet, and work with its Arctic partners in bilateral and multilateral ven­ues. The U.S. needs to revitalize its Arctic policy and commit the necessary resources to sustain America's leadership role in the High North.
Read the whole thing. Check earlier posts on this topic by clicking on labels below, especially "arctic", "polar sea routes."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Meet a pirate from the Strait of Malacca

A former farmer turned to a life of crime as he looks for easy money, presented by from American Public Media here.

From the reporter who found the pirate she interviewed:
From the moment I saw them, I could tell these guys were different from the other ex-pirates I'd met. They were scruffy and sunburned; they chain-smoked and spoke in gravelly voices. There was no artifice in the way they talked, no guile.

I told them I wanted to do a story about what it's really like to be a pirate. "Americans have the wrong view," I said. "They either think you are Johnny Depp or you are helping terrorists."

This latter claim is commonly made by American and Japanese officials when they propose to send their own patrols to the Strait of Malacca. The Indonesian government has fiercely resisted such outside involvement. Instead, they prefer to work with the navies of neighboring Singapore and Malaysia.

Somali Pirates Capture Turkish Ship

Latest NATO Somali Piracy Update here (click to enlarge):

Report of seizure of Turkish ship:
Following a short lull in piracy incidents, possibly due to adverse weather conditions, there has been a very recent surge of incidents. Bulk carrier MV YASA NESLIHAN was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on 29 October. In addition, two other vessels were attacked andone approached in the Gulf of Aden on 28 October. the total number of commercial vessels (including one tug)hijacked in Somali waters now stands at ten; over 200 merchant seamen are held by pirates.
More information:
The NATO Shipping Center reports that the bulk carrier MV Yasa Neslihan was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on October 29, but gives no details of the incident,

The Marshall Islands-flag Yasa Neslihan is an 82,849 dwt, 2005 built bulk carrier operated by Turkey's Ya/Sa Shipping Industry & Trading SA.

The NATO Shipping Center reports the hijacking as part of a very recent surge of incidents in the region following a short lull in piracy incidents, possibly due to adverse weather conditions.

NATO says that two other vessels were attacked and one approached in the Gulf of Aden on October 28, while a U.S. Fifth Fleet/Combined Maritime Forces release puts the number of unsuccessful piracy attempts in the area that day at five.

Separately, the Spanish defense ministry said that a maritime patrol aircraft thwarted a pirate attack on the Panama-flagged oil tanker Leander on Tuesday

The P-3 Orion aircraft received a call for help from the Leander on Tuesday reporting that pirates on two boats were trying to board the vessel which was was about 210 km north of the coast of Somalia.

"To deter the pirates, the plane flew over the hostile boats three times and launched a smoke bomb at them each time," the defense ministry said. "After the third launch, the crew of the P-3 noticed that the boats gave up their attempt to board and separated themselves from the oil tanker."

The aircraft was on a routine patrol when it received the call for help.
Photo of Yasa Neslihan from

NavCent press release on Coalition effort in fighting pirates:
Five piracy attempts occurred yesterday in the Gulf of Aden; they were all unsuccessful as a result of pro-active measures taken by masters and crews of the commercial shipping vessels.

Even when shots were fired during two of these attacks, the crews of commercial shipping vessels conducted evasive maneuvering and used fire hoses to repel their attackers.

“The pro-active measures taken yesterday by merchant vessels are exactly what we have been recommending,” said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, Commander, Combined Maritime Forces. “For slightly more than two months the Coalition has been working with the commercial shipping industry and the International Maritime Organization to recommend best practices and leverage lessons learned to employ reasonable self-protection measures. These measures range from proactive lookouts and evasive maneuvering to embarking professional security teams.”
Since its establishment, Coalition units have deterred more than two dozen attacks in the Gulf of Aden.

“Piracy is a threat to the security of all nations and requires an international solution,” said Gortney. “The Coalition’s presence is helping deter destabilizing activity, allowing the shipping industry time to implement self-protection measures and the international community to establish a legal framework to hold pirates accountable for their actions.”
In addition to Coalition naval forces, ships and aircraft from several other nations to include a NATO task force are operating in the region. While there is no formal agreement between the Coalition and other navies, they have been communicating with each other and sharing information to more effectively patrol the area.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Iranian "Mystery Ship" and the Somali Pirates

Iran doesn't like Somali pirates and is directing its ships to take precaution to prevent their seizure in the Gulf of Aden, as set out here:
Iran's main shipping firm has told its vessels to install barbed wire on their decks and put crew on watch against pirates in the Gulf of Aden, it said on Wednesday.
Of more interest to some will be the report on the Iranian "mystery" ship Deyanat which has been touted as everything from an Iranian vessel carrying weapons to Eritrea to a potential weapon of mass destruction to be used against Israel (a subject about which I receive frequent emails). According to the news report:
The bulk carrier Iran Deyanat, owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), was hijacked on Aug. 21, one of numerous ships hijacked by pirates in the waters off the Horn of Africa. It was freed on Oct. 10.
One report suggested the Iran Deyanat had been carrying arms to Eritrea, and a Kenyan-based shipping organisation suggested the ship was carrying a "dangerous chemical" that had injured and killed Somali pirates.

IRISL denied both allegations in a statement on Wednesday. It said the Iran Deyanat had sailed to Salalah, Oman, after its release and was now in the Mediterranean, heading to Rotterdam.

"The cargo was loaded in China under normal circumstances and there is no danger associated with it," IRISL said.

"We didn't go to Eritrea with any weapons," Captain Majid Ensan Najib of IRISL told Reuters.

Najib, the head of IRISL's maritime affairs department and emergency response committee, who was involved in Iran Deyanat's release, said the ship's manifest had listed only minerals and industrial goods, not chemicals or arms.
Mystery cargo? Start your own rumor. Let's follow the ship to Rotterdam.

UPDATE: For those of you wondering, Salalah, Oman is a Omani port on the Gulf of Aden.

Piracy Reports: ONI Worldwide Threats to Shipping (to 24 Oct 08) and ICC CCS Piracy Report (to 27 Oct 08)

The U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Intelligence's Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report (to 24 Oct 08) can be found here. Repeated from earlier reports is this analysis of the pattern of the Somali pirates:
ONI SPECIAL PIRACY ANALYSIS: GULF OF ADEN. The volume of recent Gulf of Aden piracy has allowed the Office of Naval Intelligence to determine factors that represent maximum risk of becoming a hijack victim. Of these, vessel speed at time of attack and time of day are the most significant. Analysis over a two month reporting period included 21 incidents representing both firing incidents and vessel seizure. Suspicious approach incidents that did not involve gunfire were not used in this risk quantification process.

All but one hijacking occurred during daylight hours. The single exception took place at 0430 local time during a period of 94% lunar illumination. The average service speed of the 10 vessels that were fired upon but not boarded was 15 knots. The average service speed of the 11 vessels that were successfully boarded by pirates was 14 knots.

Attacks over the study period occurred in clusters east of longitude 046 degrees 38 minutes east and west of longitude 050 degrees 32 minutes east. Attack activity within these boundaries is likely due to a combination of factors that impact small boat operations such as currents, prevailing winds, sea state, and distance from pirate staging areas.

In addition to increasing standard anti-piracy precautions, all vessels are advised to proceed through the entire Gulf of Aden at maximum possible speed. Vessels with characteristics that put them at higher risk, like maximum speeds of 15 knots or less, as well as those with low freeboard, are advised to minimize risk by transiting as much as possible of the eastern Gulf of Aden in hours of darkness (ONI).
Got that? Point Number 1: Low speed daylight transits of the Gulf of Aden by ships with low freeboard put those ships at risk and should be avoided.

Other highlight:
8. GULF OF ADEN: The European Union (EU) commenced military-led convoys of merchant vessels across the Gulf of Aden the week of 06 Oct 08 according to the EU’s piracy chief. French Navy corvettes will shuttle across the pirate-infested waters in the hope that their presence acts as a deterrent, Captain Andres Breijo told Lloyd’s List. The Brussels-based piracy ‘cell’ which Cap Breijo heads will inform shipowners of the position and departure times of the vessels via their national shipowners’ associations, inviting them to take the same route. The operation is not, strictly speaking, a convoy, according to naval terminology, he said, as the term implies that the commanding officer has the authority to change course and speed, which is not the case. It is nevertheless the first sign that EU countries are willing to escort shipping in the area on a regular basis. A Spanish reconnaissance aircraft is also in operation. The two-ship
vanguard should be expanded when the EU naval force now being assembled is sent to the region - ten countries have said they are willing to take part in the force. It is expected in the Gulf by the end of the year. In the meantime, the corvettes will shuttle east-west and west-east, with at least one of the two at sea at all times. Joining a convoy was “no guarantee” against attack, Capt Breijo said. A total guarantee would require a security team on board every vessel in addition to an escort, which is impossible given that up to 30,000 ships a year use the route. But pirates in the region have until now shown no desire to mount an attack in the presence of a
navy vessel, he said. Ships from non-EU navies could also eventually take part in the operation.
(LL, 06 Oct 08 reporting)
Point Number 2: If you can't avoid daylight low speed transits of the Gulf of Aden, follow in the wake of, or otherwise connect with, the EU escort service.

Highlights of the ICC Commercial Crime Services Weekly Piracy Report (to 27 October 08):
- 21.10.2008:0330 LT: Tema anchorage, Ghana. Robbers boarded a chemical tanker at anchor, broke open forecastle locker, stole ship’s stores and escaped. Authorities informed.

-14.10.2008: 1400 LT: Posn: 12:59.425N – 048:29.721E: Gulf of Aden. Nine armed pirates in two speedboats attacked and hijacked a dhow underway enroute from India to Berberra, Somalia. Pirates sailed the dhow to an undisclosed location in Somalia. There were 13 crewmembers onboard held hostage. The vessel was released on 23.10.2008.
The ICC CCS also continues to post photos of what it says are suspected Somali pirate "mother ships" operating in the Gulf of Aden:

The stand off with the Ukrainian weapons laden cargo vessel continues.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Somali Pirates: Money Talks

The is a saying among some employers that employee motivation is not driven by money - that there are other, more complex factors that cause workers to work hard.

There might be such complex factors at play with the pirates of Somalia, but money sure seems to be the starting point for many of the pirates, as set out in this BBC News report Somali pirates living the high life:
"They have money; they have power and they are getting stronger by the day," says Abdi Farah Juha who lives in the regional capital, Garowe.

Pirates guard the crew on the MV Faina
The crew on MV Faina are reportedly being well-looked after

"They wed the most beautiful girls; they are building big houses; they have new cars; new guns," he says.

"Piracy in many ways is socially acceptable. They have become fashionable."

Most of them are aged between 20 and 35 years - in it for the money.

And the rewards they receive are rich in a country where almost half the population need food aid after 17 years of non-stop conflict.

Most vessels captured in the busy shipping lanes of the Gulf of Aden fetch on average a ransom of $2m.

This is why their hostages are well looked after.

The BBC's reporter in Puntland, Ahmed Mohamed Ali, says it also explains the tight operation the pirates run.

They are never seen fighting because the promise of money keeps them together.

Wounded pirates are seldom seen and our reporter says he has never heard of residents along Puntland's coast finding a body washed ashore.

Given Somalia's history of clan warfare, this is quite a feat.

It probably explains why a report of a deadly shoot-out amongst the pirates onboard the MV Faina was denied by the vessel's hijackers.

Pirate spokesman Sugule Ali told the BBC Somali Service at the time: "Everybody is happy. We were firing guns to celebrate Eid."
Further, as the article notes, the pirates assert they are performing a public service by patrolling the Somali coast as "coast guards" - creating their own mythology along the lines of Robin Hood or Jesse James as they indiscriminately grab fishing boats, freighters, tankers and World Food Program shipping, often venturing well beyond any possible Somali territorial or economic zone waters.

That they are gathering "rock star" status- in addition to wealth beyond the imaginings of most impoverished Somalis - may be just a bonus to them.

That status is another factor that forces opposing the pirates need to bear in mind as they try to contain the Somali pirates.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Reading

CDR Salamander: Launching the Counter Revolution at Sea, in which the U.S. Navy is found wanting in its planning ahead. Hey! If a few pirates can tie up a couple of billion dollars in U.S. Navy assets, the Navy is not configured for the world of warfare as we now know it.

UPDATE: Fred Fry's Martime Monday 133 features an East River view and a whole lots more good stuff.

Somali Pirates: Chain of Command

Those Somali guys attacking ships from the small boats are mere pawns in the game of life, as Mongo so well phrased it, while there the pirate kings further up the food chain are enjoying the high life away from the sea and away from all those warships that are now pirate hunting off the Somali coast, as set out here:
New international navy patrols may deter piracy off Somalia, but the kingpins remain untroubled enjoying the fruits of this year's rash of hijackings in cities around the world, a regional maritime official said.

"There really isn't a military solution. The boys on the boats are just the foot-soldiers," said Andrew Mwangura, whose East African Seafarers' Association monitors piracy.

"The commanders and generals -- the financiers and the organisers behind it all -- are in Dubai, Nairobi, Mombasa, and even Canada and London, sitting in their hotels, communicating via laptops, and making big money."
While some advocate a hard strike on the pirates, there are complicating factors: risks to hostages, different locations of the various gangs, problems identifying who pirates are before they have taken a boat, and international legal complications once suspects are captured.

"The foreign patrols should calm the situation. But they cannot just attack a ship, it's not that simple," Mwangura said in an interview on Sunday. "We need to go to the roots."
Mwangura said authorities in the region were turning a blind eye to illegal fishing, toxic dumping, drug- and gun-running, illegal charcoal shipments, and human trafficking in Somali waters that were all indirectly fuelling piracy.

"All these businesses inter-link. A foreign ship pays a warlord to be allowed to fish illegally off Somalia, and that money then funds the piracy," he said.

"But when you start denouncing these things, powerful people get upset because you are spoiling their game."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Ship History: Desperate Victory

The Batttle off Samar, 25 October 1944, a battle of Davids versus Goliaths ... and the mission was to protect the landing force on the beach at Leyte. One of the greatest sea battle ever and true heroes won the day. From the official report, Battle off Samar Island - TF 77:
Serial: 032335 Nov 18, 1944


From: Commander Task Force Seventy-Seven.
To: Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet.

Subject: Preliminary Action Report of Engagements in Leyte Gulf and off Samar Island on 25 October, 1944.

References: (a) My Operational Plan 13-44.
(b) CTF 77 three part despatch 280015, 281002, and 280130, October, 1944.

Enclosure: (A) CTF 77 despatches 210641, 240315, 240325, 241655, and 240543, October, 1944.

1. This report is submitted in amplification of reference (b) and contains such additional information as is presently available. It is submitted in advance of the formal report.

2. During the period, 17-28 October, 1944, which covers the period of this report, Task Force Seventy-Seven was engaged in carrying out its assigned mission:

To accomplish a ship to shore amphibious movement; to transport, land, and support elements of the Sixth Army in order to assist in the seizure, occupation, and development of the Leyte area of the Southern Philippines.

3. The Japanese reacted to these operations by sending major fleet units in a vigorous effort to repel or destroy our forces, resulting in the actions in Surigao Strait and the action off Samar, which together constitute the "Battle of Leyte Gulf".

4. The Allied Forces taking part in the engagements were:

Task Group 77.2
6 OBB - Mississippi, West Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, California, Pennsylvania.


4 CA - Louisville, Portland, Minneapolis, HMAS Shropshire
4 CL - Columbia, Denver, Boise, Phoenix

Task Unit 77.2.1
3 DD - Aulick, Cony, Sigourney

Task Unit 77.2.2
Desron 56, 12 DD - Leutze, Newcomb, Bennion, H. L. Edwards, Richard P. Leary, Robinson, A. W. Grant
Desdiv XRAY - Claxton, Thorne, Wells

Task Group 77.3
Desdiv 47, 6 DD - Bache, Beale, Hutchinson, Daly, Killen, Arunta (HMAS)

Task Group 77.4

Task Unit 77.4.1
4 CVE - Santee, Suwanee, Sangamon, Petrof Bay
3 DD - McCord, Trathen, Hazelwood
3 DE - R. S. Bull, Eversole, R. M. Rowell

Task Unit 77.4.2
6 CVE - Natoma Bay, Manila Bay, Marcus Island, Kanashan Bay, Savo Island, Ommaney Bay
3 DD - Haggard, Frank, Hailey
4 DE - R. W. Suessens, Abercrombie, Stafford, W. C. Wann

Task Unit 77.4.3
6 CVE - Fanshaw Bay, St. Lo, White Plains, Kalinin Bay, Kitkun Bay, Gambier Bay


3 DD - Hoel, Heerman, Johnston
4 DE - Dennis, J. C. Butler, Raymond, S. B. Roberts


5. Some discussion of conditions preliminary to the joining in action of major naval forces is deemed necessary in order that the action may be viewed in proper perspective. During the month of September, carrier-based aircraft of the Third Fleet had made extensive raids on main enemy airbases throughout the Philippine Islands, with the attacks concentrated on the group of airfields in the vicinity of Manila, San Fernando, and Laoag. These raids by the Third Fleet, under the command of Admiral Halsey, were most effective in destroying large numbers of enemy aircraft. Starting about 10 October, and continuing through about 20 October, Third Fleet carrier forces delivered destructive and extensive raids on enemy airbases and shipping in the Northern Luzon, Formosa, and LooChoo Island area. These Third Fleet raids, in addition to destroying large amounts of shipping, were effective in destroying large numbers of enemy aircraft and in drawing effective enemy aircraft strength away from the Philippine area and toward the Formosan area.

6. In the meantime, the Third and Seventh Amphibious Forces, covered by surface forces and carrier-based aircraft of the Seventh Fleet, moved north from New Guinea bases to effect a landing on the island of Leyte. The landing operations were initiated on the 17th October when the outpost islands of Suluan and Homonhon were seized by a light amphibious Group under the command of Rear Admiral Struble, supported by a part of the CVE's and by battleships, cruisers, and destroyers of Task Group 77.2. Minesweeping was commenced immediately to clear the mine barrier thought to exist between Dinagat Islard and Homonhon Island. The following day a landing was effected on Dinagat Island and the eastern entrance to Leyte Gulf was effectively secured. Minesweeping was continued and beach


reconnaissance completed by underwater demolition teams by 19 October.

7. Early in the morning of the 20th of October, the amphibious forces moved through the swept channel between Homonhon and Dinagat Islands and landed U.S. Army troops of the Tenth and Twenty-fourth Corps in two beach areas - one near Tacloban and one near Dulag, under cover of heavy fire from our surface ships and air bombardment from aircraft from the CVE's of Task Group 77.4. The landings were made exactly on schedule at 1000 Item, October 28th, and progress ashore was satisfactory. Army troops ashore continued to advance for the next three days, under strong air and surface ship support, making satisfactory progress against Japanese positions. By October 20th, the Third Fleet, under Admiral Halsey, had moved into supporting positions and his carrier Task Groups continued to bomb and strafe enemy air bases in Central and Southern Luzon and the Visayas. There was no immediate enemy reaction, other than relatively light air attack, to our landing on the island of Leyte. The enemy air attack, however, gradually increased in intensity despite continued air bombardment of his air bases by our air forces,

8. In order that early warning might be had of the approach of any hostile naval forces, submarines had been stationed to guard Brunei Bay, Balabac Strait, Mindoro Strait, Verae Island Passage and to the westward of Luaon off Manila and northward thereof. Air searches from Korotai Island, extending from Balabac Strait to Verde Island Passage were extended to a radius of 1000 miles, while carrier Task Forces of the Third Fleet and air searches by Central Pacific forces from Palau and Saipan were depended upon to give early information of the approach of enemy forces east of the Philippines.


9. At 0200 I/23 a submarine reported a radar contact on three battleships southwestward of Palawan Island on position


latitude 08-20N, longitude 116-20E, course 040 degrees, speed 15 knots. At 0300I/23 a submarine reported a force of 11 combat ships in position latitude 08-47N, longitude 116-37E on course 039, at speed of 15 knots. At 0340I/23 the submarine Bream reported a force of at least two heavy cruisers and several destroyers in position latitude 14-05N, longitude 119-43E, speed 10 knots and on a course directed for the Verde Island Passage, and reported one hit in an Aoba Class heavy cruiser. At 0630I/23, the submarine Darter in position latitude 09-24N, longitude 117-11E, reported 3 battleships, 4 CA, and three other vessels, and also reported obtaining four torpedo hits in one Atago CA and damaging another Atago class CA. At 0700I/23, the submarine Dace, in position latitude 09-24N, longitude 117-20E, reported a total of 11 ships including 3 BB, 2 CA, one CV, and many unidentified CA, CL, DD, and reported getting four hits in a Kongo class BB. It was later determined that the attack of these two submarines resulted in the sinking of the heavy cruisers Atago and Maya, and the damaging of the heavy cruiser Takao. The U.S.S. Darter in the heat of pursuit subsequently grounded on Bombay shoal and had to be abandoned.

10. From the foregoing reports it was realized that large Japanese naval forces were on the move and it was estimated that the Northern force could arrive at Coron Bay about 2000I/23 and the large force moving Northeast through the Palawan Passage could arrive at Coron Bay about 0100I/24. It was believed that the Japanese might refuel in the vicinity of Coron Bay, and it was now felt fairly certain that they would attempt an attack on our naval forces off Leyte, probably through Southern Surigao Strait. At 2130I/23, the submarine Angler in position latitude 13-00N, longitude 119-30E reported 15 to 20 ships including three probable battleships on easterly course at a speed of 18 knots.

11. Presumably based on these excellent submarine reports, Commander Third Fleet directed three reinforced air searches to be mode by his fast carrier groups on the early morning of the 24th; one to cover thc Manila, Verde Island Passage, and Sibuyan Sea areas; one to cover Southern Visayas and Central Sulu Sea area. These searches here successful in locating large enemy forces, and at 0840I/24 an enemy force


reported to consist of 4 BB, 8 CA, and 13 DD, was reported, just south of Mindoro Island, moving northeastward into the Tablas Strait. At 0904I/24, aircraft reported a force consisting of 2 BB, 1 CA, and 4 DD in position latitude 08-55N, longitude 121-50E, course northeast, speed 15 knots, and claimed four bomb hits in each of the battleships and rocket hits on the DDs. These two enemy forces will henceforth be referred to as the Central Force and the Southern Force.

12. The Southern Force was again reported by aircraft and attacked at 1000I/24 in approximately the same position and on the same course as before and at 1155I/24, a Korotai search plane in position latitude 09-30N, longitude 120-30E, reported 3 CA, 4 DD on course southeast, at speed 10 knots. The morning attacks on the enemy Southern Force had been delivered by the reinforced search group of aircraft of Task Group 38.4 which shortly after 1000I/24 stated it was moving north to effect concentration with the remainder of Task Force 38, northeast of San Bernardino Strait and would be out of range of the Southern Force.

13. As reported by Third Fleet aircraft, the enemy's Central Force continued to move northeastward through Tablas Strait and at 1200I/24 a total of 25-27 combatant ships of this force were reported north of Tablas Island moving on a general easterly course. Aircraft from Task Force 38 struck at this enemy force between 1430 and 1500I in a position in the Sibuyan Sea about 30 miles north of Sibuyan Island. The force was reported to consist of a total of 4 BB, 8 to 9 CA, 2 CL, and 12 or 13 DD. Aircraft reports indicated that the enemy force had been severely damaged and was badly disorganized. Nevertheless, aircraft at 1925I/24, reported substantially this same force moving on a course of 120 degrees towards the northern tip of Masbate Island and again at 2030I/24 aircraft reported the same enemy force just north of Masbate Island on an easterly course evidently bound for San Bernardino Strait.


14. Commencing with first light and throughout the day of the 24th, enemy aircraft attacked our naval forces off Leyte at steadily increasing intensity. By morning of the 24th, it was evident that we were faced with two large Japanese naval forces. One, the Central Force, moving eastward towards San Bernardino Straits, and the other, the Southern Force, moving northeastward towards the Kindanao Sea, while a third force, henceforth referred to as the Northern Force, consisting of 2 CV, 1 CVL, 1 BB-XCVS, 3 BB-CA, 5 CA-CL, and 6 DD, was reported by aircraft at 1640I/24 in position 18-1ON, 125-30E, course southwest, speed 15 knots,

15. By early afternoon of the 24th, it was felt definitely that the enemy intended to attack our naval forces covering the landing on Leyte Island, and dispositions were made accordingly. Thirty PT boats in ten groups of three each were stationed as reconnaissance and attack groups as follows: three groups between Southeast Bohol and Camiguin Island, and Sipaca Point on Mindanao. The remainder covered the southern entrance to Surigao Strait and Jinatuan Passage, and the passage between Mindanao and Southern Dinagat Island, with orders to remain south of latitude 10-10N, and to report and attack enemy forces sighted. Task Group 77.2, under Rear Admiral Oldendorf, consisting of 6 OBB, 4 CA, 4 CL, and 24 DD, took up initial station in the latitude 10-34N, longitude 125-19E, in a position to guard both the southern and eastern entrances of Leyte Gulf with orders to attack and destroy any enemy forces attempting to enter the gulf. The carriers of Task Group 77.4 with their escorts were disposed about fifty miles to the eastward of Homonhon Island in three Task Units within mutually supporting distance and from north to south as follows: 77.4.3; 77.4.1; 77.4.2.

16. In addition to these forces, destroyer pickets were stationed in the southern and eastern entrances to Surigao Straits to give early warning of enemy approaches. A late afternoon air search to the westward in the Mindanao Sea to a distance of about 100 miles from the southern entrance of Surigao Strait failed to disclose the presence of enemy


forces. Searches by night Catalina over the Mindanao Sea were not productive of reports of enemy sightings. Commander Task Group 73.7 (the Black Cats) was also ordered to conduct a night search to the northward of Leyte Gulf and eastward of Samar. Commander Task Group 77.4 was directed to run a search at daybreak for enemy surface ships to the northward covering sector 340 degrees to 030 degrees for distance of 135 miles, point of origin Suluan Island.


17. About 0030I/25 PT boats between Bohol and Camiguin sighted, reported, and delivered an attack against a fast approaching enemy force on a course for Surigao Strait. At 0123I/25 PT boats at the southern entrance to Surigao Straits reported strong enemy forces moving north at high speed in two groups. The first group consisting of 6 to 8 ships, including several heavy units and a second group about four miles astern of the first group and composed of about 8 ships. As the enemy moved north, PTs drove into the attack, but so far as can be determined, without effecting any material damage. Our Surface forces closed the enemy to form a semi-circle around the northern end of the strait--battleships in the center, cruisers and destroyers equally divided on each flank.

18. The action was opened at 0305I/25 by a destroyer torpedo attack, delivered by picket destroyer and torpedo attacks from both east and west against the enemy heavy ships by our destroyer attack groups. This was an excellently executed night torpedo attack by sections of three destroyers each. The torpedoes were seen to hit, the enemy column was slowed and many explosions noted. The destroyer attack was completed about 0400I/25 and at 0405I/25 our BB's and cruisers on easterly courses opened fire simultaneously at range of sixteen to seventeen thousand yards. BY 0445I/25 the remaining enemy had turned away and was in flight, hotly pursued by our surface forces. A few of his units were successful in escaping westward through southern Surigao Straits.


19. From the best information presently available, it is believed that the enemy's southern force, which moved into Surigao Strait commanded by Vice Admiral Shapi Nishimura, was organized as follows:

First Group - Batdiv 2
Fuso, Yamashiro 2 BB
Desdiv 4
Michishio, Yangumo
Asagumo, Shigure 4 DD
About four miles astern of the above:-
Second Group -
Ashigara 1 CA
Kiso, Kinu or Isuzu 2 CL
Unidentified 6 DD

20. Of the first group, only the damaged M0GAMI is thought to have escaped the early morning action. In this action also the Ashigara (CA) and two DDs of the second group were damaged, and the damaged Ashigara was probably sunk by aircraft of Task Group 77.4.2 south of Panaon Island about 0857I/25. While between 0750 and 0841 the damaged Mogami and several destroyers were further damaged by air attack at the entrance to Sogod bay. In this action, the following damage was inflicted on the enemy:

SUNK: Yamashiro, Fuso 2 BB
Asagumo, Yamagumo, Shigure, Muhishio and one unidentified. 5 DD
Kinu or Isuzu 1 CL
Unidentified 2 DD



SUNK: PT 493 1 PT boat
DAMAGED: A. S. Grant (DD 649) 1 DD
PT 194 1 PT boat


21. At 0653I/25 aircraft anti-submarine patrol of Task Unit 77.4.3 (Northern CVE Group) reported many enemy battleships, cruisers, and destroyers on a southerly course about 15 miles north and westward of the Task Unit. The first news of this enemy force was received on board the flagship about 0724I/24 when Commander Task Unit 77.4.3 reported that he was under gunfire attack by four battleships, eight CA and many destroyers, at a range of about 30,000 yards. This was the first indication that the enemy's Central Force had succeeded in passing through San Bernardino Straits. Up to this time, from information available to Commander Seventh Fleet, it was assumed that Third Fleet forces were guarding the San Bernardino Straits in position to intercept and destroy any enemy forces attempting to come through. To confirm this assumption, Commander Seventh Fleet had sent a despatch to the Commander Third Fleet asking if he was guarding the San Bernardino Straits. Reply was not received until after the enemy surface forces were attacking our Northern CVE Group.

22. At this point, the situation appeared very critical. Our surface combatant forces were deep in the southern part of Surigao Strait, after the battle of the early morning, and after five days of almost continuous bombardment of shore objectives and fighting a naval action, they were exceedingly short of ammunition and fuel; moreover, the destroyers had expended almost all their torpedoes. Nevertheless, all of our available surface forces were ordered to concentrate at eastern entrance Leyte Gulf, preparatory to moving to the support of


the retiring CVEs and an urgent call for assistance was sent to Commander Third Fleet. All aircraft were recalled from support missions and were directed against the enemy's Central Force attacking our CVEs. Task Units 77.4.1 and 77.4.2 moved northward to the support of Task Unit 77.4.3 and the enemy was hit with every conceivable form of plane attack, including dummy torpedo runs by planes without torpedoes.

23. At about 0730, in response to orders to cover a retirement of the northern carrier Task Unit, two destroyers - Hoel and Johnston - and the Roberts (DE) reversed and delivered a daylight half salvo torpedo attack against the enemy battleships at a range under 10,000 yards, then turned and delivered the other half salvo against enemy heavy cruisers at a range of about 7,000 yards. After one of the most gallant and heroic acts of the war, all three ships were sunk, although the Hoel continued to withstand concentrated enemy fire for about one hour before finally sinking. As a result of continuing air action by our CVEs and the destroyer attack, the enemy momentarily turned away, and several of his ships were seen to be hit and in trouble.

24. The enemy, however, resumed the action and about 0900I/25 the Gambier Bay was badly hit, dropped astern, and later blew up and sank as a result of enemy shell fire. The Saint Lo was sunk about 1050I/25 as a result of a suicide attack by an enemy dive bomber which crashed into the flight deck and started a tremendous fire. This fire caused several violent explosions on the ship and the Saint Lo sank without further enemy action. At 1255I/25, the enemy force turned away and commenced retirement towards San Bernardino Strait on a course of 015 and speeds of 15 to 20 knots leaving several damaged ships behind. Throughout the morning and continuing into the afternoon, our CVEs were the primary target of incessant and strong enemy air attack. As a result of these attacks and of enemy surface gunfire, many of our CVEs were severely damaged and were unable to land or service their planes. In this extremity, the partially completed Tacloban airfield was put into use, and CVE planes were skillfully landed on that partially completed airfield, serviced, and returned to the attack, thus saving many planes and pilots who would otherwise have been lost due to water landings. It is remarkable, that in these landings on an unknown and ill-kept field, no serious injuries were sustained by our air personnel, which speaks very highly of their skill.


25. Planes of Task Group 38.1 arrived over the retreating enemy at about 1330I/25 and delivered their first attack about 1400I/25. As the enemy continued to retreat northward, they were continually attacked and harassed by the planes of 38.1 and by the planes of the CVE Force. The enemy's remaining forces consisting of about 14 ships, including his four battleships, were last reported entering San Bernardino Straits at 2200I/25, leaving several cripples far to the rear, which were finished off the next day by the forces of Task Force 38.

26. Based on a careful analysis of all reports, it is now estimated that the enemy force, which succeeded in passing through San Bernardino Straits, headed south and attacked our CVE group, was composed as follows:
Batdiv 1
Yamato, Nagato
Batdiv 2
Haruna, Kongo 4 BB
Crudiv 5
Myoko, Haguro
Crudiv 7
Suzuya, Chikuma, Tone 5 CA
Noshiro or Yamagi 1 CL
Desron 2 and 10
unidentified units 11 DD

27. Of the above force, it is estimated that the combined attack of Task Group 77.4 inflicted the following damage:


SUNK: Chikuma, Suzuya 2 CA
Unidentified 1 DD
Haguro or Myoko 1 CA
Unidentified 1 DD

(Plus some damage to 2 CA, 1 CL and 1 DD)

Task Force 71 inflicted the following damage:

SUNK: Atago, Maya 2 CA

Third Fleet inflicted the following damage:

SUNK: Kumano, Haguro or Myoko 2 CA (1 damaged by TG 77.4)
Noshiro, Yahagi 2 CL
Unidentified 1 DD
DAMAGED: Yamato, Haruna, Kongo, Nagato 4 BB
Chokai, Tone, Haguro or Myoko 3 CA
Unidentified 4 DD

28. In this action, our losses were as follows:

SUNK: Gambier Bay, St. Lo 2 CVE
Hoel, Johnston 2 DD
Roberts 1 DE
DAMAGED: Kalinin Bay, Fanshaw Bay, White Plains, Sangamon, Suwanee, Santee 6 CVE
HeermanN (DD532) 1 DD
Dennis (DE405) 1 DE


Except for the pursuit phase, this ended the Battle of Leyte Gulf in which the enemy's major fleet was decisively defeated with heavy loss.

29. Starting with the early morning of the 26th and throughout that day, the 27th and 28th, the damaged and retreating enemy forces were subjected to the unremitting attacks of aircraft of the Third Fleet, aircraft from our own CVE's and searching aircraft of Task Force 73. Submarines moved to positions likely to be productive for attacking the crippled enemy forces.

30. Early on the morning of the 26th, one CL and five DD remaining of the enemy's southern force, were sighted by planes of Task Group 77.4 off Ormoc, on the western coast of Leyte. The attacking planes definitely sank one DD and heavily damaged the light cruiser. The remainder of this group of ships then moved northwestward and eventually joined the Japanese Central Force in the Sibuyan Sea. The damaged CA-XCVS Nogami was located off the northern tip of Cebu Island that same morning and was further damaged by planes of Task Group 77.4. The remaining one CL of the enemy's southern force fled westward through the Mindanao Sea, but was attacked and damaged by a Task Froce 73 search plane at 0200I/28 in latitude 05-35W, longitude 119-07E off the Northeast tip of Borneo.

31. On the early morning of the 26th, planes of Task Force 38 sank a damaged heavy cruiser (probably Myoko or Haguro ) east of Samar Island, while reports indicate other Third Fleet air attacks sank the Nasashi (BB), Kimano (CA) - both damaged by Third Fleet aircraft on the 24th - well to the westward in the Sibuyan Sea, and sank one CL, probably Yahagi or Noshiro, in the same area. On the afternoon of the 26th, Third Fleet aircraft finally caught and sank the damaged CA-XCVS Mogami off the east coast of Panay. Further damage was inflicted on surviving ships of the enemy's central force. The data in this paragraph is based on probably fragmentary and incomplete reports by Third Fleet Units as received aboard the flagship of Commander Seventh Fleet and is therefore admittedly incomplete and subject to wide correction by Commander Third Fleet.


32. Heavy and intense enemy air attacks were withstood by our forces in Leyte Gulf throughout the 26th without serious damage.

33. Nothing has so far been said of action with the enemy's Northern Force as this action took place wholly between that force and units of the Third Fleet. In order to round out the picture, however, and subject to correction by Commander Third Fleet, it is deemed appropriate to make the following remarks:

1. The enemy's Northern Force is estimated to have been composed as follows:

Zuikaku 1 CV
Cardiv 3 (Chitose, Chiyoda, Zuiho) 3 CVL
Cardiv 4 (Ise, Hyuga) 2 BB-XCV
Nachi 1 CA
Oyodo, Abukuma, Tama, Kiso 4 CL
Destroyers 6 DD

2. The following damage is estimated to have been inflicted on the above force, based upon reports received:

Sunk; Zuikaku 1 CV
Chitose, Chiyoda, Zuiho 3 CVL
One of the 3-stack cruisers 1 CL (by sub Balao)
2 unidentified DD 2 DD

Damaged; Ise or Hyuga 1 BB-XCV
Oyodo 1 CL

34. Our total plane losses during this period were 221. 130 of this total were lost due to sinking and damaging of CVE's during the battle of Leyte Gulf, 25 October, 1944. While precise data is not yet at hand, the great majority of pilots and air crews were saved.

35. During this same period the following losses


were inflicted on the enemy by units of the Seventh Fleet engaged and by supporting units of the Third Fleet, exclusive of losses inflicted by the Third Fleet on the enemy's Northern Force:

Sunk; Yamashiro, Fuso 2 BB
Mogami (Central Force) 1 CA-XCVS
Atago, Maya, Chikuma, Suzuya, Kumano, Haguro or Myoko 6 CA
Noshiro, Yahagi 2 CL
Asagumo, Yamagumo, Shigure, Michishio, plus 3 others 7 DD

Probably sunk; Musashi 1 BB
Ashigara 1 CA

Damaged; Yamato, Nagato, Haruna, Kongo 4 BB
Aoba, Takoa, Chokai, Tone, Haguro or Myoko 5 CA
Kinu, Isuzu 2 CL
Destroyers 7 DD

36. During this same period, forces of the Seventh Fleet engaged are estimated to have destroyed the following enemy aircraft, principally by CVE aircraft of Task Group 77.4:

(a) On the ground on enemy airfields 127
(b) Anti-aircraft fire 28
(c) In air combat 399
Total 554

37. During the entire period (17 October to 28 October) including the battle of Leyte Gulf, units of the Seventh Fleet engaged incurred the following losses:


17 Oct. YMS 70 YMS Storm.
22 Oct. Sonoma AT Air bomb.
24 Oct. * Darter SS Grounded chasing enemy force.
24 Oct. LCI 1065 LCI Air bomb.
25 Oct. * Gambier Bay CVE Gunfire.
25 Oct. * Saint Lo CVE Gunfire and plane suicide dive.
25 Oct. * Johnston DD Gunfire.
25 Oct. * Hoel DD Gunfire.
25 Oct. * Roberts DD Gunfire.
25 Oct. * PT 493 PT Gunfire.

17 Oct. Powell DE Storm.
18 Oct. Ross DD Mine.
20 Oct. Honolulu CL Air Torpedo.
20 Oct. Ashtabula AO Air bomb.
21 Oct. Tennessee (slight) BB Collision.
21 Oct. Australia CA Plane crashed on bridge.
21 Oct. LST 269 LST Shore mortar fire.
21 Oct. LST 483 LST Shore mortar fire.
22 Oct. Augustus Thomas Lib. Ship Air bomb.
25 Oct. * Kalinin Bay CVE )
25 Oct. * Fanshaw Bay CVE )
25 Oct. * White Plains CVE )_ Gunfire, air bombs,
25 Oct. * Sangamon CVE ) plane suicide dives.
25 Oct. * Suwanee CVE )
25 Oct. * Santee CVE )
25 Oct. Hutchins DD Hit sunken LCI.
25 Oct. A. W. Grant DD Gunfire.
25 Oct. * Heermann DD Gunfire.
25 Oct. * Dennis DE Gunfire.
25 Oct. * PT 194 PT Gunfire.
26 Oct. PT 134 PT Airbomb.
27 Oct. Robert Wheeler AK Aircraft crashed on deck.
28 Oct. Denver CL Plane suicide dive.

* Due to action in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, 25 October, 1944.



More here. Previous post on this battle here. CDR Salamander's post.

Medal of Honor citation for Commander Ernest Evans:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Johnston in action against major units of the enemy Japanese fleet during the battle off Samar on 25 October 1944. The first to lay a smokescreen and to open fire as an enemy task force, vastly superior in number, firepower and armor, rapidly approached. Comdr. Evans gallantly diverted the powerful blasts of hostile guns from the lightly armed and armored carriers under his protection, launching the first torpedo attack when the Johnston came under straddling Japanese shellfire. Undaunted by damage sustained under the terrific volume of fire, he unhesitatingly joined others of his group to provide fire support during subsequent torpedo attacks against the Japanese and, outshooting and outmaneuvering the enemy as he consistently interposed his vessel between the hostile fleet units and our carriers despite the crippling loss of engine power and communications with steering aft, shifted command to the fantail, shouted steering orders through an open hatch to men turning the rudder by hand and battled furiously until the Johnston, burning and shuddering from a mortal blow, lay dead in the water after 3 hours of fierce combat. Seriously wounded early in the engagement, Comdr. Evans, by his indomitable courage and brilliant professional skill, aided materially in turning back the enemy during a critical phase of the action. His valiant fighting spirit throughout this historic battle will venture as an inspiration to all who served with him.
Heroes. Much more in Thomas Cutler's book The Battle of Leyte Gulf: 23-26 October 1944 and in James D. Hornfischer's The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors: The Extraordinary World War II Story of the U.S. Navy's Finest Hour.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Brit Navy gets some authority

Reported as Navy is given new power to destroy pirate vessels:
Royal Navy sources said commanding officers had been given the power to destroy equipment used by pirates – including sinking their vessels.

A recent escalation in piracy in the lawless waters off the coast of Somalia has involved a series of high-profile raids, including the seizure of the MV Faina carrying a cargo of tanks and weapons.

A US-led international fleet Combined Task Force 150, including the British frigate HMS Northumberland, is already patrolling the Gulf of Aden.

In a Commons written answer, Mr Ainsworth told shadow foreign secretary William Hague yesterday: 'The government's stance on piracy has recently been reviewed.

'This has resulted in a move to a more proactive posture whereby Royal Navy units in the region will actively seek out pirates, and we have issued them with more robust guidance to deal with any pirates encountered.'

Previously, commanding officers could only engage pirates if they caught them in the act and were not allowed to destroy their weapons or equipment.

A navy source said: 'The UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea does not permit them to destroy equipment.

'What the UK guidance will do is allow commanding officers to do that.'

Friday, October 24, 2008 Jihadist Ideology and the Targeting of Humanitarian Aid Workers

Curious about why in Somalia and Afghanistan international aid workers are under attack? Did you know they were? In either case, here's an analysis from

On the morning of Oct. 20, as humanitarian aid worker Gayle Williams walked to work in Kabul, Afghanistan, two men on a motorcycle approached and shot her multiple times before speeding off. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the assassination of the 34-year-old British citizen from South Africa. Taliban spokesman Zaibullah Mujahid told The Associated Press that his group killed Williams because she “came to Afghanistan to teach Christianity to the people of Afghanistan.” Williams’ organization, Serving Emergency Relief and Vocational Enterprises (SERVE), denied the charge.

In a message on SERVE’s Web site, the organization noted that Williams had worked for nearly two years in Kandahar and Kabul directing projects designed to integrate disabled Afghans into the mainstream educational system. SERVE has a long history of working with the needy and with refugees in Afghanistan. The organization was founded in 1972 to help famine victims in Ghor province, and began to work with Afghan refugees in Pakistan in 1980. Since 1992, the group has focused on work inside Afghanistan, providing assistance to refugees returning to Afghanistan and vocational training for the disabled.

In September 2007, we discussed the burgeoning kidnapping industry in Afghanistan
and how the Taliban were beginning to focus on humanitarian workers — not only as a moneymaking enterprise, but also as a political lever. Indeed, reports from organizations such as the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) and the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief indicate that attacks on aid workers have increased dramatically in 2008. According to ANSO, the 19 humanitarian aid workers killed in the first half of 2008 surpassed the 15 killed in all of 2007, and the death toll has continued to mount.

The brazen attack against Williams follows other deadly attacks against aid workers in August and September. On Aug. 13, a marked International Rescue Committee vehicle was attacked in a small-arms ambush in Logar province. The attack resulted in the deaths of one U.S. citizen, two Canadian citizens and an Afghan driver. On Sept. 14, a suicide bomber attacked a marked U.N. Assistance Mission for Afghanistan vehicle in the Spin Buldak district of southern Kandahar province. Two Afghan doctors — working to inoculate Afghan children against polio — and their driver died in the attack.

The increase in attacks against humanitarian workers shows that the Taliban have made a strategic decision to target them. Additionally, from the targeting of non-Christian workers, it is obvious that the issue goes much farther than just a desire to combat proselytism. The Taliban clearly see Afghanistan’s many foreign missionary and secular humanitarian aid organizations as supporting the Afghan government, and they believe that driving these organizations out of Afghanistan will be a blow to the government’s efforts to promote stability in the country. Because of this, we anticipate the Taliban will continue to target aid workers in the country, and not just those connected to Christian organizations.

The targeting of humanitarian aid workers goes far beyond Afghanistan, however. And the practice is becoming a point of contention between jihadist ideologues and militant groups.

The Somalian Example

A similar campaign by jihadist militants designed to force humanitarian workers out of a country has been under way for the past few years in Somalia. Chaos has reigned in Somalia since the late 1970s, becoming a full-blown humanitarian crisis and civil war in the early 1990s. Somalia has never really recovered from that war. Incessant violence still rages, and because of the violence, there are currently millions of internally displaced people — aka refugees — dependent on foreign humanitarian aid for survival. According to U.N. estimates, 3.2 million Somalians (or 43 percent of the country’s population) are dependent on such aid.

The Islamist militants in Somalia are fighting the government of President Abdullahi Yusuf and the Ethiopian troops keeping Yusuf in power. The militants understand the importance of international aid to internal stability, and have sought to use attacks against aid as a weapon against the government. Groups such as the al Qaeda-linked al Shabab have launched many attacks against humanitarian aid workers since 2006 and have been able to use kidnapping and assassination to drive most of the foreign aid workers out of the country.

Even with the foreign aid workers gone, the militants have continued their attacks against World Food Program (WFP) shipments and Somalian employees of aid organizations. In the past week alone, two U.N. employees were assassinated in Somalia. On Sept. 17, Abdenasser Adan Muse, a senior program assistant for the WFP, was shot three times as he left a mosque in the town of Merca. On Sept. 19, Mukhtar Mohammed Hassan, a water engineer working with the U.N. Children’s Fund, was shot dead in Huddur as he walked with friends after attending a local mosque.


Of course, the decision to target humanitarian aid workers significantly impacts the people deprived of the aid such organizations offer, including programs to provide food, water and medical care.

One of the things that helped turn the tide of public opinion against the jihadist militants in Iraq — including groups like al Qaeda in Iraq headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — was the violence the groups perpetrated against civilians, and among those innocent civilians were employees of nongovernmental organizations. In addition to the murders of aid workers such as Margaret Hassan of CARE International, militants conducted an attack using a large vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) against the Baghdad headquarters of the United Nations in August 2003. The bombing resulted in the death of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq. The U.N. headquarters came under attack again in September 2003, and following the second attack, all U.N. personnel were withdrawn from the country, along with many other international humanitarian aid workers.

Just over a month after the second U.N. bombing in Baghdad, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) headquarters in Baghdad was attacked by militants using a powerful VBIED. But al-Zarqawi’s forces are not the only ones who have attacked the ICRC. In addition to the Baghdad attack, ICRC workers have been abducted or attacked by jihadists in several other places, including Ethiopia, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Not only have the attacks against ICRC personnel gained the attention of the people denied humanitarian assistance as a result, they have also lead to a significant buildup of tensions among jihadist ideologues over the subject of attacks against humanitarian workers.

This tension can be seen in the writings of Isam Mohammed Taher al-Barqawi, more popularly known by the nom de guerre Abu Muhammad Asem al-Maqdisi, considered by many to be the world’s leading jihadist theoretician. Since his release from Jordanian custody in March, al-Maqdisi has released a number of new writings on jihad. Unlike other jailed jihadist theoreticians — such as Egyptian ideologue Sayyed Imam al-Sharif, aka Dr. Fadl — al-Maqdisi has not recanted his jihadist beliefs.

In the recently released Chapter 19 of his book “Thoughts on the Fruit of Jihad,” al-Maqdisi has taken a clear stand against targeting “genuine” humanitarian organizations. Al-Maqdisi specifically referred to the ICRC, noting how it is a legitimate humanitarian organization with no hidden agenda whose valuable services to the poor and dispossessed should be appreciated.

Al-Maqdisi wrote about his own personal experiences with the ICRC since 1994. Much of his time since then has been spent in prison in Jordan, and according to his writings, he had much positive interaction with the ICRC during that time. During such a prison stint in the mid-1990s, al-Maqdisi became acquainted with al-Zarqawi, who was greatly influenced by al-Maqdisi’s teaching. Al-Maqdisi would later repudiate al-Zarqawi over the latter’s targeting of Shiite noncombatants and their religious facilities in Iraq, which had caused thousands of deaths. Al-Zarqawi responded that his former mentor had strayed from the jihadist cause.

Al-Maqdisi wrote Chapter 19 in response to incidents such as the 2003 bombing of the ICRC office in Baghdad. In it, he urges jihadist militants to refrain from attacking genuine humanitarian organizations.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Al-Maqdisi is widely respected in the Arabic-speaking jihadist world, but we know from historical precedent that al-Zarqawi and company did not follow his philosophy about targeting the Shia and other noncombatants in Iraq when they believed that tactical considerations outweighed such overreaching principles. It is also noteworthy how disregarding al-Maqdisi’s guidance to militants in Iraq — and the subsequent blowback — was a significant factor in their downfall.

There is precedent for this type of ideological tension and pressure causing jihadist groups to abandon widely used tactics. One such example was the jihadist beheading videos, which proliferated after the highly publicized February 2002 video of the beheading of journalist Daniel Pearl by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) in Pakistan. Jihadists in places like Iraq and Saudi Arabia quickly copied the tactic, and it was used in many videos released by these groups in 2003 and 2004.

As this tactic spread, it was condemned by the al Qaeda core leadership. Even though the practice had been begun by KSM, a senior al Qaeda operative, the leadership gauged the response to the videos and deemed the practice to be counterproductive to their overall goals. This condemnation was clearly evident in the letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to al-Zarqawi intercepted by the U.S. government and released in October 2005. Significantly, the practice of jihadist groups beheading hostages on video has declined markedly since the core al Qaeda leadership expressed their opposition to it.

Al-Maqdisi’s stance on the issue of killing humanitarian aid workers, and specifically ICRC members, is clear, and his stature will cause militant groups to pay attention to his opinion. It should be noted, however, that wiggle room for militants will remain if they claim, as the Taliban did in the Williams case, that the target of their attack was involved in proselytism. The Taliban were undoubtedly already under pressure in that case to justify their assassination of a woman, something considered very unmanly in Afghan culture.

Given this evolving intra-jihadist debate, signs should be looked for of a tactical shift in places like Somalia, where attacks against humanitarian organizations have been widespread, or in Afghanistan, where such attacks have been rapidly growing in number. So far, tactical considerations have outweighed ideological arguments against such attacks, and we see no end in sight to such attacks. But with al-Maqdisi’s pronouncement, the pressure against such attacks will surely grow and the topic should spawn a lot of discussion and division in militant circles. This discussion may ultimately lead to a change in tactics.

The Election

Pirates attack ship in Kenyan waters

Reported here, an attack on a Singapore registered ship in Kenyan waters:
A Singapore registered ship, the Kota Hening, was attacked by suspected Somali pirates on Thursday night in Kenya’s territorial waters, 180 nautical miles from Mombasa port.

The ship, owned by ASL Shipping PTE and managed by Anglo-Eastern Ltd of UK, had 330 containers on board.
“We received a distress call and alerted the security agencies,” port harbour master Captain Twalib Khamis said.

He said armed pirates in three speed boats surrounded the ship and fired several shots but did not cause much damage.

The ship, with 22 crew members — four Indians and 18 Indonesians — arrived safely at Mombasa port at 10am.

Maritime sources told the Nation that the 8pm attack raised questions over the Kenya Navy’s effectiveness in safeguarding the country’s territorial waters as this was the second time a ship had been attacked in Kenyan waters in the past week.

The sources, who declined to name the ship, said the earlier attack, though unsuccessful, took place near Lamu.

Somali Pirates: NATO has Rules of Engagement

Reported here:
NATO warships are in place off the Somali coast to tackle rampant piracy in the waters and are ready to escort UN aid vessels under threat, a spokesman for the alliance's naval command said.
"The boats are in the area. They have started their deterrent role," a spokesman at NATO's naval command in Naples, Italy said by telephone, adding that the three vessels "would escort UN ships on request".
The ships - an Italian destroyer and British and Greek frigates which form NATO's operation Allied Provider - "may use force" under their rules of engagement and in line with international law, a statement said.
This might get interesting. The NATO ships are apparently only escorting World Food Program shipping.

Puntland, in the meantime, is reported to be setting up some sort of system for trying captured pirates, as set out here:
The Ports and Sea transportations deputy minister of the semiautonomous Somali region of Puntland, Abdulkadeer Muse Yusuf, has revealed on Friday to APA that his administration is arranging the establishment, in the coming days, of a new tribunal for the captured buccaneers.

Puntland’s Abdulkadeer Muse Yusuf told APA in an exclusive interview that his administration will take to court the 23 pirates who have recently been captured in different anti-piracy operations and will be tried in accordance with the Islamic law.

“Four of the captured pirates are now on their way to the shore and we will then establish a special tribunal system for them. Their trial must be different from other people’s because they have committed a big crime,” the deputy minister said.

Local elders, religious men, business people and representatives from all strata of the population will take part in the hearing of the pirates because their case is a very serious one,” the deputy minister said on Friday morning.

According to Abdulkadeer Muse Yusuf, this move is meant to pave the way for a new strategy to fight piracy with help from representatives of all communities.

Muse Yusuf said the new system to handle the case of buccaneers will involve representatives from all communities.

“Tribalism is a big problem in Somalia. And whenever somebody is sentenced because of a crime, the person’s clan can show its dissatisfaction with the court’s judgement. The new system will avoid such allegations in the future. We hope everyone will be conten,” he added.

On Thursday, the French navy has handed over nine Somali pirates to the authorities of Puntland, a regional administration in north-eastern Somalia.

Of course, last time Puntland had some pirates to try, not much happened.

UPDATE: Info on French capture of the 9 pirates here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

ONI Worldwide Threats to SHipping (to 17 Oct 08) and Piracy Report for ICC CCS (to 20 Oct 08_

ONI Worldwide Treats to Shipping Report (to 17 October 08)can be found
here. Highlights:
3. SOMALIA/SOUTH KOREA: The government of South Korea is considering sending
officials to Somalia, who will decide whether or not naval warships should be dispatched to the
region where pirates have hijacked several Korean vessels, per 15 Oct 08 reporting. ``We are
positively reviewing the plan and inspectors are likely to head for the area late this month at the
earliest,'' said an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Wednesday, asking to
remain anonymous. Details have not been determined yet, he added. The Ministry of National
Defense has sent naval vessels to other countries to help after massive natural disasters, but
dispatching warships to Somali waters to protect Korean ships will be a first. During a National
Assembly audit of the Navy Tuesday, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Chung Ok-kun said
the Navy was prepared to send ships. Considering the current military strength, vessels such as
the 4,500-ton KDX-II class with helicopters designed for naval use and an anti-terror unit can be
dispatched,'' he said (LM: The Korea Times).
4. SOMALIA/IRAN: Two National Iranian Tanker Co (NITC) VLCCs have been attacked
by Somali pirates in recent weeks, prompting the owner to demand more rigorous action. NITC
chairman Mohammad Souri stated that in both cases the ship’s crews were able to fend off the
attacks. The attacks have prompted Souri to join the chorus of owners and industry bodies
calling for more direct action. “This can not go on,” he says. Souri says that Iran is willing to
contribute to any naval effort if asked, but wants to see somebody take the lead on this issue
7. GULF OF ADEN: The European Union (EU) commenced military-led convoys of
merchant vessels across the Gulf of Aden the week of 06 Oct 08 according to the EU’s piracy
chief. French Navy corvettes will shuttle across the pirate-infested waters in the hope that their
presence acts as a deterrent, Captain Andres Breijo told Lloyd’s List. The Brussels-based piracy
‘cell’ which Cap Breijo heads will inform shipowners of the position and departure times of the
vessels via their national shipowners’ associations, inviting them to take the same route. The
operation is not, strictly speaking, a convoy, according to naval terminology, he said, as the term
implies that the commanding officer has the authority to change course and speed, which is not
the case. It is nevertheless the first sign that EU countries are willing to escort shipping in the
area on a regular basis. A Spanish reconnaissance aircraft is also in operation. The two-ship
vanguard should be expanded when the EU naval force now being assembled is sent to the
region - ten countries have said they are willing to take part in the force. It is expected in the
Gulf by the end of the year. In the meantime, the corvettes will shuttle east-west and west-east,
with at least one of the two at sea at all times. Joining a convoy was “no guarantee” against
attack, Capt Breijo said. A total guarantee would require a security team on board every vessel
in addition to an escort, which is impossible given that up to 30,000 ships a year use the route.
But pirates in the region have until now shown no desire to mount an attack in the presence of a
navy vessel, he said. Ships from non-EU navies could also eventually take part in the operation.
(LL, 06 Oct 08 reporting)
ICC Commercial Crime Services Piracy Report (to 20 Oct 08) here. Highlights:
16.10.2008: 1700 UTC: Posn: 12:44.0N – 045:52.0E: Gulf of Aden. A VLCC underway noticed, via radar, the echo of three high-speed boats approaching. Master increased speed, commenced evasive manoeuvres and altered course to prevent the speedboats from getting closer. Master attempted to contact the coalition warship via VHF Ch. 16 but failed to get any response. Later coalition warship responded and advised master to take evasive manoeuvres. As the speedboats approached the vessel, master noticed one speedboat with three men armed with machine guns. The evasive manoeuvres of the vessel prevented the boats from coming closer and later the speedboats aborted their attempt and disappeared.

15.10.2008: 0409 UTC: Posn: 13:33.92N – 050:10.70E: Gulf of Aden. Armed pirates in speedboats boarded and hijacked a bulk carrier underway along with its 21 crew. The pirates are sailing the vessel to an undisclosed location in Somalia. The vessel was enroute from Aqaba, Jordan to a port in China.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sri Lanka: Tamil Tiger suicide boats try to take out food supply merchant ships

Reported as LTTE suicide attack damages one ship off Jaffna coast:
A Sri Lankan cargo vessel was “badly damaged” when the Tamil Tiger rebels Wednesday carried a pre-dawn-suicide attack targeting two government merchant vessels off the Kankesanthurai harbour in the northern Jaffna peninsula, naval sources here said.Navy spokesman Commander D.K.P. Dassanayake said that three explosive-laden suicide boats of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) targeted merchant ships Ruhuna and Nimalawa, off Kankasanthurai (KKS) harbour at 5.10 a.m. Wednesday.

“One of the suicide boats has exploded in close proximity to Merchant Ship Nimalawa causing considerable damage to the ship’s hull,” Commander Dassanayake said, claiming that these two merchant vessels were deployed to transport essential supplies to the northern Jaffna peninsula.

He said that the sailors providing security on board the targeted vessels “have engaged machine gun fire at the approaching suicide boats effectively, and destroyed two of them before ramming on the ships”.

He claimed that the third LTTE suicide craft had been captured by the navy.

Russian ship passes Suez on anti-piracy mission; Indians not welcomed by Somalia?

After several weeks of seemingly breathless anticipation by the media, a Russian ship passes Suez on anti-piracy mission:
A Russian warship was moving through the Suez Canal Tuesday to join military vessels from other nations protecting shipping in pirate-infested waters off Somalia, a navy official said.

Russian Navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said the guided missile frigate Neustrashimy (Intrepid) will join warships from other nations surrounding an arms-laden Ukrainian
"The Russian ship will fulfill the task of minimizing the threat of pirate attacks," Dygalo said in a statement. He added that it will "join the action of foreign navy ships currently controlling the situation around the ship."
Dygalo said that the level of cooperation between the Neustrashimy and foreign warships in the area -"from coordination of actions to concrete practical measures" - will be determined by Russian diplomats and military officials.

In the meantime, the presence of an Indian navy ship stirs up a bit of controversy with the representative of the putative government of Somali, as set out here:
“India has no legal framework to order its navy to intervene in the waters of Somalia because there is no agreement between India and Somalia and also the Resolution of 1817 doesn’t allow them,” says Ambassador Ebyan Mahamed Salah.

India has once held back from signing the agreement presumably because it was felt there was no need but the hijacking of the Stolt Valor and the risk to other Indian merchant ships and sailors has put a different complexion to the problem.

The navy is now reported to be considering anti piracy patrols off the Gulf of Aden in concert with other countries in the region. These patrols could be coordinated with the patrols being carried out by the US led task force now in the area.
An Indian dhow with 13 sailors was recently nabbed by pirates, but may have also been freed by Somali militia, as set out here:
Armed Somali men, helping out coastguards in the African waters, have managed to free an Indian cargo ship with 13 sailors on board, after it was hijacked by pirates off the northern coast of Somalia.

Four of the armed pirates, who had come in speedboats to hijack the Indian cargo vessel, have been captured in the encounter, a senior minister from Somalia was quoted as saying.

There were no reports of any injuries.

Earlier on Tuesday, an official of the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur had said that pirates seized the ship which was en-route to Somalia and hijacked it south of Socotra island over the weekend.
The Indian government had dispatched a powerful stealth warship to the area as momentum has been growing for coordinated international response to the spate of hijacking being unleashed by Somali pirates using speed boats.
According to this, the U.S. is "keen" on India's involvement:
With India rushing its warship to Gulf of Aden after pirates attacked cargo ships carrying its nationals, the US says it is keen to partner with New Delhi to jointly patrol the high seas off the African coast to deter the armed outlaws.

"The Indian ships presence in Gulf of Aden will provide both of us an opportunity to work together (against pirates) and we are looking forward to it," said US Navy Captain Kenneth J Norton on board USS Ronald Reagan, the world's largest warship, as it sailed in the Arabian Sea about 130 miles off Goa coast.

Washington's views on Indian warship patrolling the region comes in the wake of over 35 incidents of piracy attacks on cargo ships in Gulf of Aden in the last three months.

Somali Pirates: NATO Rules of Engagement Still Being Worked Out

As noted here, NATO deploys naval ships for work against Somali pirates, but as set out here, its battle plan is still a work in progress:
The commander of a NATO task force on its way to tackle piracy off the coast of Somalia has said he still does not know what the rules are for taking on the high-seas bandits. U.S. Admiral Mark Fitzgerald said while he was aware of where the pirates were operating, there was little he could do militarily to stop them and that guidelines on how to take them on -- including whether to shoot -- were still in the works. "You know, I don't think we've gotten the rules of engagement yet from NATO," Fitzgerald told reporters on Monday during a briefing on U.S. naval operations in Europe and Africa. "That's all still being debated in the North Atlantic Council. All we've been told is to prepare a plan to go down there. So (the rules) are going to have to be debated." Six NATO members have contributed ships, including destroyers and frigates, to a special anti-piracy task force following a request from the United Nations. The NATO group passed through the Suez Canal last week on its way to the Horn of Africa, where piracy has surged this year, with more than 30 ships seized and ransoms estimated at $18-$30 million have been paid to free hostages. There are already naval assets from Britain, the United States and Russia in the region, but the area is so vast -- more than 2.5 million square miles -- that it is almost impossible for the pirates to be stopped unless they are caught red-handed. "From a military standpoint, we certainly are limited by what we can do," said Fitzgerald. "How do you prove a guy's a pirate before he actually attacks a ship? "We have a problem from the military side at sea because we can't be omnipresent in the space, and the pirates operate at an advantage because ... they don't announce they're a pirate until they attack a ship." Security specialists say there is a window of only about 15 minutes for a navy ship to respond to a distress call and get to another ship that's being hijacked. Once pirates are on board, there's little, legally, that can be done. "You've got a very short window, a short time span, from the point where they decide to board a ship and (actually) board it. If you're not right there, there's not much you can do, and once the ship is taken hostage, then...." The Danish navy learnt to its cost last month what can happen if you do seize suspected pirates. They captured 10 people, but after holding them for six days aboard a Danish ship, the suspects were set free and put ashore in Somalia because the legal conditions surrounding their detention were unclear. Denmark's Defence Ministry said Danish law did not allow for prosecution of the men before a Danish court. The ministry said it had explored the possibility of handing them over to other countries but that was also not feasible. A senior British naval commander admitted last week that it was essentially a legal minefield trying to take on the pirates, and urged commercial ships operating in the region to hire their own private security companies to deal with the threat. Admiral Fitzgerald said the Danish experience showed how weak the impetus was going to be to capture pirates. Instead he said his task force would focus on escorting World Food Programme ships trying to deliver aid to Somalia.