An eyewitness account of an attempted plane hijacking last week in Somalia's northern semi-autonomous Puntland region suggests would-be hijackers were members of a pirate gang, whose operations have been affected by the increased international naval patrols in the Gulf of Aden.
Last Tuesday, about 30 passengers boarded a commercial plane in the northeastern town of Bosasso for a short flight to neighboring Djibouti.
Among the passengers was Yusuf M. Hassan, a Somali-American journalist and the former managing editor of Garowe Online Web site. Hassan tells VOA he noticed two German journalists on board, but he says no one noticed two young Somali men, sitting quietly in the first row.
"The plane was not in the air for more the three minutes when some guy in the very front jumped up and, in the Somali language, said, 'This plane has been hijacked.' When the pilot heard his very loud voice and a woman in the front scream, the pilot closed and locked his door," he said.
The plane landed safely in Bosasso. Surrounded by security forces, the gunmen tried to escape from the plane hiding behind passengers, but they were caught.
Hassan says through various contacts, he subsequently learned that at least one of the gunmen was a member of the pirate group in Las Qorey, which has had trouble seizing vessels for ransom in the well-patrolled waters off Somalia's northern coast.
"My understanding is that because of NATO operations, the pirate gangs have lost a lot of money. And any time the pirates do not seize enough boats, they begin kidnapping western people," he explained.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
VOA headline says there is a relation to Somali sea pirates in Somali Pirates Tried to Seize Plane, Passengers: