Saturday, 29 January 2011

Clashes between Somali Liberators and Pirates at Hobyo – Ecoterra 85th Press Release Update

Clashes between Somali Liberators and Pirates at Hobyo – Ecoterra 85th Press Release Update

Clashes between Somali Liberators and Pirates at Hobyo – Ecoterra 85th Press Release Update
In a most interesting and significant development, last Sunday (21 December) Somali liberators entered into clashes at Hobyo, which marks a critical point for the Somali piracy phenomenon. The first dead have already been reported in what could be the beginning of the end of the Somali piracy. It would be essential for the international community to cooperate, and stop defaming the Somali patriots as supposedly Islamists, extremists or merely insurgents.

The outright majority of the fighters of ARS, the Shebab, and the other liberation groups are mere Somali patriots who want the criminal Amhara and Tigray thugs of Abyssinia out of their country, the corrupt warlords and the unrepresentative TFG regime delivered to the International Court of Justice for crimes against the Mankind, and Somalia in its entirety pacified, reunited, and rehabilitated. This is called patriotism, not Islamism.

I herewith republish the 85th Ecoterra press release update integrally.

85th Update 2008-12-21 16:51:29 UTC

Ecoterra Intl. - Stay Calm & Solve it Peaceful & Fast !

Ecoterra International – Update & Media Release on the stand-off concerning the Ukrainian weapons-ship hi-jacked by Somali pirates.

We also can make sea-piracy in Somalia an issue of the past - with empathy and strength and through coastal and marine development as well as protection!

New EA Seafarers Assistance Programme Emergency Helpline: +254-738-497979
East African Seafarers Assistance Programme - Media Officer: +254-733-385868

Day 88 - 2090 hours into the FAINA Crisis - Update Summary

Efforts for a peaceful release continued, but the now nearly three months long stand-off concerning Ukrainian MV FAINA is not yet solved finally, though intensive negotiations have continued.

The owners of the FAINA have protested against the role of an American businesswoman in negotiations to free the ship, a spokesman said. U.S. media reported late last month that a businesswoman from Virginia with links to U.S. intelligence and the military, as well as to Somali clan leaders, had stepped in to negotiate with the pirates for the release of the FAINA, as well as the Saudi oil tanker Sirius Star. Mikhail Voitenko, the editor of Sovfracht Maritime Bulletin, who is acting as a spokesman for the owners, said: "She has to understand that by offering criminals a huge amount of money, which by the way she doesn't have, she is only giving them false hope, and is actually ruining the results of the negotiations that the ship owners have already achieved".

A colleague of the businesswoman told the news channel ABC last month that the woman, who goes by the name of Amira (Arabic for princess) in Somalia, has been in Somalia for five years, has built a network of clan and sub-clan members in the region and aims to turn Somalia from a failed state into a functioning one. "My goal is to unwind all 17 ships and all 450 people they've been holding" she apparently stated to an US website. Voitenko said that under international law the ship owners hold exclusive responsibility for the crew and the ship, and that neither the Ukrainian government nor any third party will take a role in negotiations. "Neither Amira, nor anyone else for that matter, has received any power of attorney to hold negotiations with the pirates, let alone to promise to pay an unrealistic ransom. Therefore, Amira's actions in regard to the crew members being held by the pirates can only be qualified as opportunism", Voitenko said and added: "The Ukrainian government has never held talks with the pirates and they will not under any circumstances".

A group of Somali Islamists took control of the coastal town of Hobyo during last night and on Sunday morning after a heavy skirmish between them and a group of Somali pirates, who were in control of Hobyo district for of long time. The two sides exchanged heavy weapon fire including RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades), heavy and light machine guns. Eventually the pirates were overwhelmed and the town fell into the hands of the Islamists. "When the fight begun we automatically new that it was between the pirates and the insurgents" said Hassan Omar a resident in the coastal town of Hobyo.

Two Islamic fighters were said to have been killed by the pirates, who claimed one of theirs dead, while Al-Shabaab claims that three people of the pirate groups were killed and none of theirs got killed. Hobyo town was one of the strongholds for the Somali pirates after the famous dens of Eyl and Harardheere. The local people of the town of Hobyo endorsed the move by the Islamists, and said the pirates were a thorn in their flesh. Harardheere, where MT Sirius Star is anchored, is said to be also now surrounded by Al-Shabaab. Barwago is not yet in the hands of the Islamists. It is assumed that this action of the Islamists by taking control of the two towns will hamper the pirate's activities in the area along the coast but also the release efforts. Hobyo will from now on not only be a no-go zone for pirates but also for any foreigner, especially Americans even if "invited", because a kidnap would be imminent. At present the situation poses not yet an immediate threat to the crews of MV FAINA as well as MT Sirius Star.

Ecoterra Intl. renewed it's call to solve the FAINA and the SIRIUS STAR cases with first priority and peaceful in order to avert a human and environmental disasters at the Somali coast. Anybody encouraging hot-headed and concerning such difficult situations inexperienced and untrained gunmen to try an attempt of a military solution must be held fully responsible for the surely resulting disaster.


News from other abducted ships --------

A group of men believed to be Somali pirates have exchanged fire with fishermen on their fishing trawler off the coast of Somali and in this crossfire a man who was identified as a Kenyan citizen traveling with the attacked fishermen has died. The incident occurred near Bandar Beyla, in Bari region of Puntland. The fishing boat is now in the hands of a gang believed to be pirates, who have been asked by the coast guards of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland to hand over the fishing vessel. According to one of the captors stated: "The world is immensely exaggerating what is happening with so called piracy in the Somali waters. Why I am saying this is because there were many illegal fishing vessels collecting the resources en masses in the Somali waters, but nobody has been talking about this issues and the world has covered its face with all the wrong things which were happening in the waters of Somalia. This is why should they now must feel the agony. We are proud of our waters, thanks to God, and who ever dares to infest them with anything will see for himself" said one the pirates, who didn't want to be identified. Senior Puntland coast guard officers told local media, that they were investigating the attack, confirming the death of the Kenyan man. The identity of the fishing vessel is not yet know.

The sea-jacked Malaysian tugboat MASINDRA 7 is today floating off Cabow (30 miles from Caluula) at the tip of the Horn of Africa with the submerged barge ADM 1 still attached by a 150m long cable. The vessel could not anchor yet and also could not proceed to Hafun or Eyl, due to the failure of one engine. All 11 Indonesian crew members on board are safe and have enough food for a month, Malaysia's foreign minister had said on Friday. The pirates got in touch with the tugboat's owner, Mas Indra Shipping Pvt. Ltd., by satellite phone, Foreign Minister Rais Yatim stated. He said the pirates told a Masindra representative that "the payment of ransom would be discussed later". All crew members of Masindra 7 were reported to be safe and in good health, he said, adding that the information had been conveyed to the Indonesian ambassador in Kuala Lumpur.

The Indonesian government, however, would not negotiate with the Somali pirates over the release of 11 Indonesians on the Malaysian tug boat, the Indonesian foreign ministry said Friday through its spokesman Teuku Faizahsyah. Earlier shipping company Muhibbah Engineering Bhd had denied it would be the owner of the tugboat. A Muhibbah Engineering official, who requested anonymity, said the report quoting French petroleum company Total saying the tug belonged to the company was confusing. The official, however, said Muhibbah Engineering had business links with Total over the Yemen liquified natural gas jetty works. "There must have been confusion that we owned the vessel", he said. Meanwhile, in Putrajaya, the National Security Council (NSC) secretary Datuk Muhammad Hatta Abdul Aziz said the Malaysian owner of the boats has asked the council for advice on handling the crisis. He said the company informed the NSC of the matter around midday on Wednesday. "The company is handling the case. We are only advising them on how to approach the situation since we have the experience", he stated. The Malaysian warship KD Sri Indera Sakti, a combat support ship, is in the area.

With the latest captures and releases now at least 19 foreign vessels with a total of at least 360 crew members (of which 91 are Filipinos) are held in Somali waters and are monitored on our actual case-list, while several other cases of ships, which were observed off the coast of Somalia and have been reported or had reportedly disappeared without trace or information, are still being followed. Over 131 incidences (including attempted attacks, averted attacks and successful sea-jackings) have been recorded to far for 2008 with until today 58 factual sea-jacking cases (incl. the presently held 19). Several other vessels with unclear fate (not in the actual count), who were reported missing over the last ten years in this area, are still kept on our watch-list, though in some cases it is presumed that they sunk due to bad weather or being unfit to sail. In the last four years, 22 missing ships have been traced back with different names, flags and superstructures.

Other related news -----------------

More than US $ 900 million will be needed next year just to avoid famine and disease, according to Mark Bowden, the U.N. humanitarian and resident coordinator for Somalia. The European Union and the United States have begun to chase pirates more aggressively, but that's like swatting at bees while ignoring the hive. When President-elect Barack Obama takes office, he can help greatly simply by putting a stop to U.S. missile attacks on suspected Islamist terrorists. Whatever is gained by eliminating one murderous zealot is lost by turning entire Somali communities against Western aid efforts. "One missile attack turns an entire area of the country into a no-go zone for us", said Bowden. "All aid workers are viewed as spies for the U.S. anyway, and managing this humanitarian operation is fragile in the best of situations. If America would stop shooting missiles it would be the biggest single thing it could do to help".

The Somali clan-enclave of 'Puntland State of Somalia', home to the currently imposed but ailing president of Somalia's warlords government is expected to declare a ban on imports of Khat from Kenya and Ethiopia. In a reaction to the travel ban on Abdullahi Yusuf, the 'Puntland State of Somalia' hopes to put pressure on Ethiopia and Kenya to respect its clan elder and lift the current isolation which he suffers. The ban of Khat by Somalis in 'Puntland State of Somalia' is worth $15 million a month excluding the costs of transportations. The majority of Khat arrives from Yemen due to its close proximity to Bandar Qasim, while the rest choose to eat the Abyssinian Salad or Kenyan Mirra transported by planes. Unlike many parts of Somalia where the ban on Khat has often been entertained, this will be the first time it has ever been applied selectively. The huge measures needed to police such a ban however will be far too great for a small enclave as Puntland, and many doubt their commitment. This especially since air, sea and land traffic are the only source of income for the Abdullahi Yusuf's family who control the 'Puntland Chamber of Commerce'.

Meanwhile Abdullahi Yusuf is said to have already travelled on Saturday to Kenya, despite the ban by the Kenya Government, and is to speak with US Under-Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, as well as the Prime Minister he sacked, Nur Hassan Hussein (Nur Cadde), in separate meetings, while IGAD ministers gather in Addis Ababa to discuss the Somali crisis.

On Monday, 14 December 2008, a group of well armed pirates with heavy machine guns and grenades (RPGs) have been arrested at Kismayo, while they were preparing to set sail for the waters near the Somalia and Kenya border. The alleged pirates were arrested by the Union of Islamic Courts movement, who controls lower Juba Region. The pirates had three boats, of which two are skiffs and equipped with outboard engines of 40HP each, while the other one is a bigger, 10 meter long boat that may be used as "mother vessel" to carry food and ammunition. The presumed pirates will be charged at the Kismayo court.

British Royal Marines who shot and killed two Somali pirates in November acted lawfully, an inquiry has found. HMS Cumberland, based in Devonport, was on deployment in the Gulf of Aden when the marine detachment intervened in an attempted hijacking of a Danish ship. As the Type-22 frigate and its crew sailed back to Plymouth, the findings of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) inquiry were made public. It found that all personnel had acted lawfully and in self-defence. During the stand-off a Yemeni man on board the pirate boat was also injured and later died, in spite of emergency treatment by HMS Cumberland's doctor. Eight pirates were captured and are due to stand trial in Kenya in 2009.

A radical armed Islamist youth group, with progressive social values, that is battling Ethiopian troops in the failed state of Somalia is warning the West that it will take its fight global once it wins there. "We are fighting to lift the burden of oppression and colonialism from our country ... We are defending ourselves against enemies who attacked us", Abu Mansoor, the leader of al-Shabab, told Al Jazeera. "Once we are successful with that we will fight on and finish oppression elsewhere on earth", he said. He also told Al Jazeera that Al-Shabab has been joined by many foreign fighters. "We wish to tell Bush and our opponents our real intentions", Ibrahim Almaqdis, one of the fighters, told Al Jazeera news during an interview in Merka 56 miles south of the capital Mogadishu. "We will establish Islamic rule from Alaska and Chile to South Africa, Japan, Russia, the Solomon Islands and all the way to Iceland, be warned, we are coming". The Economist is also reporting that Al-Shabab has attracted foreign fighters.

According to the Economist, Eritrea has been giving Al-Shabab money and arms to recruit foreign fighters. Eritrea's motive is to use Somalia to hurt Ethiopia and some other Arab countries. Al-Shabab pays recruits $100 a month and provides food and medical care, as well as payments to the soldier's families and burial expenses if they are killed, the Economist reports. Soldiers are expected to forego music, videos, cigarettes and chewing qat leaf to get high. But Al-Shabab differs from some other radical Muslim groups in that it does not severely punish men who backslide on those rules. It also has more progressive social values in that it encourages education, allows girls to go to school and forbids the burning of charcoal to protect the environment.

The Obama team should also ditch the myopic view of Somalia as little more than a hatchery for Islamic terrorism, said J. Anthony Holmes, head of the Africa program at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and a former top Africa official at the State Department. He was working there when terrorists trained in what had become a terrorist haven in Afghanistan struck the U.S. on Sept. 11 2001. "There was a very serious concern that Somalia could be the next Afghanistan, and we've been reacting to that possibility ever since, but only in the most short-term respect", Holmes said. "We've been trying to kill terrorists rather than to facilitate the rebuilding of a state that would be inhospitable to terrorists". At the least, Muslim Somalia represents a missed opportunity for a Bush administration that made a special project of promoting democratic ideals and good governance in the Muslim world.

The 16-year embargo on arms shipments to Somalia has been repeatedly violated, according to a United Nations report. The illegal trafficking of weapons is fuelling the conflict between government forces, Ethiopian troops and armed opposition groups, with supplies financed by Eritrea arriving from Yemen, the UN report published on Friday read. "Most serviceable weapons and almost all ammunition currently available in the country have been delivered since 1992, in violation of the embargo". the UN group monitoring the embargo said in the report. "Commercial imports, mainly from Yemen, remain the most consistent source of arms, ammunition and military material to Somalia". Armed opposition groups have retaken control of large areas of the Horn of Africa nation, launching near daily attacks on the transitional government forces and their Ethiopian allies. The report said breaches in the embargo are being financed from sources "including the government of Eritrea, private donors in the Arab and Islamic world and organised fund-raising activities among Somali Diaspora groups".

Ethiopia and Eritrea, which have been accused of fighting a proxy-war in Somalia, have been in dispute over their shared border since a bloody conflict ended in 2000. The report said that criminal gangs, including pirates operating off the coast, were adding to the lawlessness in the country and are "typically self-financing, employing the proceeds from piracy and kidnapping to procure arms, ammunition and equipment". "Some of these groups now rival or surpass established Somali authorities in terms of their military capabilities and resource bases", it said. The Security Council on Friday voted for the mandate of the monitoring group to be extended for another year and recommends groups and individuals should be blacklisted for their role in the arms trade. The Security Council called on the Monitoring Group "to continue to investigate, in coordination with relevant international agencies, all activities, including in the financial, maritime and other sectors, which generate revenues used to commit arms embargo violations", as well as "any means of transport, routes, seaports, airports and other facilities" used in connection with such violations, the resolution said. The group should also identify areas where the capacities of States in the region can be strengthened to facilitate implementation of the embargo, the resolution said. The resolution, adopted as in the past under Chapter VII of the UN Charter that allows for the use of force, stressed "the importance of enhancing the monitoring of the arms embargo in Somalia through persistent and vigilant investigation into the violations, bearing in mind that strict enforcement of the arms embargo will improve the overall security situation in Somalia".

A Somali man who has been accused by the UN of violating arms embargo on Somalia has distanced himself from the accusations and said the United Nations were misinformed about the allegations. Muhammad Abdi Afweyne who was recently accused of breaking the United Nations arms embargo on Somalia, which was imposed in 1992, has contacted Mareeg and said he does not have anything to do with the breaking of the UN arms embargo. He said individuals who are not credible have misinformed the United Nations about the issue. Muhammad denied he would be also involved in piracy along the Somali coast, which the United Nations has accused him of. He said the UN findings on the matter were made six months ago and that he has been out of the country for now three years. Afweyne said he assisted the Union of Islamic Courts [UIC] in fighting the pirates during their rule in Somalia and that he got hold of foreign ships illegally fishing in Somalia as he was also fishing. He said he released these foreign ships without taking any ransom from them. He further said that he is willing to clear his name against any accusations.

Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, approved on Friday the deployment of a warship and troops to the Gulf of Aden to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia and to conduct an anti-piracy mission in East Africa. The mandate allows up to 1,400 German troops to join sailors, airmen and other military personnel to participate in the EU mission, code-named Atalanta, but far fewer soldiers are expected to actually serve, according to government sources. The measure was approved by 491 votes to 55, with 12 abstentions, with the oppositional left-party Die Linke opposing the plan. Free Democratic Party (FDP) chairperson Birgit Homburger warned that a marine mission to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia only responds to one part of a larger problem, which is entrenched poverty in Somalia. Only developmental aid and diplomatic measures can help the situation in Somalia improve in the long run. "This problem cannot be solved with soldiers alone", she said. The German frigate "Karlsruhe" is already situated in the operational area and can begin the mission immediately. The operation is centered on protecting vessels of the World Food Program, as well as other unarmed merchant ships.

The Netherlands will contribute a frigate and troops to the European Union's naval mission to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean in the second half of next year, its government announced Friday. "The cabinet has decided to participate from mid-August to mid-December in the European operation Atalante off the Somali coasts with the air defence and command frigate Evertsen", a government statement said. It said the Netherlands would assume command of the EU operation during the four-month period. The Evertsen, with a crew of 180, would also carry a 25-strong unit of marines with the ability to carry out "boarding and arrest operations if necessary" against suspect craft, defence ministry spokesman Otte Beeksma told AFP.

Iran has dispatched a warship to the Gulf of Aden off the Somali coast to protect its merchant shipping from the attacks by pirates in the region, Iran's state radio reported on Saturday. The report said that the Iranian navy ship has now reached the waters between the coasts of Yemen and Somalia. Iranian officials said their ships would be prepared to use force against the pirates if necessary. "After traveling more than 4,000 maritime miles an Iranian warship entered the Gulf of Aden to protect Iranian ships against pirates", said the radio report, but gave no further details. An unnamed official said the Gulf of Aden was an international area and that Iran's armed forces would "carry out any decision made by their superiors". The deployment comes after Somali pirates hijacked the Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship, Delight, operated by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) in the Gulf of Aden in November.

China confirmed on Saturday that it will send 3 navy vessels to fight pirates off the coast of Somalia. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao confirmed that the task force consists of two destroyers and one supply ship. The vessels will leave Sanya of southern Hainan Province on Dec. 26. for the Gulf of Aden and Somali waters to safeguard sea lanes. Their main task is to protect the safety of Chinese ships as well as ships carrying humanitarian aid for the international organizations. "Chinese naval vessels will strictly follow U.N. Security Council resolutions and international laws. They are willing to work with other countries and to take part in humanitarian relief tasks", Liu said. The Defense Ministry confirmed that Chinese naval vessels will strictly follow the UN Security Council's resolutions and laws. Somalia's Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Jama welcomed the news that China is seriously considering sending its navy to Somali waters for escort operations.

It gets ridiculous as even Swiss mountaineers gear up. Switzerland is ready to deploy military personnel to defend its merchant ships from pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa, Swiss President Pascal Couchepin said in remarks published Sunday. "There is no formal decision, but the position of the government is clear - we are in principle ready to send Swiss soldiers to Somalia", Couchepin told the Sonntags Zeitung newspaper. Without detailing the scope and scale of such an operation, the president said: "There is no solution other than to send some soldiers when our ships are threatened". The government now is clarifying "what juridical, financial and practical consequences" such an action would take, he added.

The one nation absent in the global armada around the Horn of Africa is Egypt, even though the country has quite a sizeable navy, at least on paper. European defence experts report that the Egyptian navy held large-scale exercises last month. So why is Egypt not taking part in anti-piracy operations? Hassan Abu Taleb, security expert and deputy editor-in-chief of the main state-owned newspaper al-Ahram insists his country is ready, but adds rather evasively "We can only act under the umbrella of the United Nations". Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen recently held emergency talks on the issue, but failed to take any decisions. Mr Abu Taleb denies that the Egyptian government has other countries doing its dirty work. He mistakenly believes that foreign naval vessels receive a discount when they pass through the Suez Canal. "We patrol the Red Sea, that is our sphere of influence. Everything outside that area is an international issue". However, not everybody agrees with that point of view. Defence analyst Mohammed Adel Salam of the al-Ahram think tank says that "A failure to protect our own strategic interests will undermine Egyptian prestige. It would prove that Egypt has only very limited regional and military influence. The notion that our shipping route is unsafe should never be allowed to take hold".

The families of Captain Jasprit Chawla and chief officer Chetan Shyam, imprisoned in South Korea after their conviction in a case involving the leakage of 10,800 tonnes of oil into the sea, have alleged they are not being treated properly in jail. Chetan's family stays in Kandivli. The sailors' families are now petitioning the Indian government to ensure their release. "We have asked the Indian government to intervene because the innocent seafarers are being made scapegoats. Both did their best to avoid the barge from crashing into the ship'', Commodore (Retd) D R Shyam, Chetan's father, said. He has served in the Indian Navy for 40 years. The oil spill occurred when a crane barge collided with the vessel Hebei Spirit in South Korean waters in December 2007. A South Korean court awarded Captain Chawla one-and-a-half years in jail and gave eight months to Chetan. The families say the Hebei Spirit was at anchorage when the barge owned by Samsung Heavy Industries collided with it. The National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI) has been lobbying for government intervention. It has asked the shipping fraternity to boycott Korean products and seas. NUSI general secretary Abdulgani Y. Serang has even equated the Korean waters to pirate-prone seas off Somalia.

End of Ecoterra Press Release Update
  By Prof. Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis
Published: 12/23/2008