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16 April 2009

The European Union says it is boosting its anti-piracy flotilla off the Somali coast to 11 ships. The EU task force was deployed to waters off the Horn of Africa in December in the bloc's first naval operation. Its main task is to escort cargo ships chartered by the World Food Program to deliver food aid to Somalia for at least the next year. [...] The EU said three Swedish frigates will join the flotilla next month.


16 April 2009

The United Nations warned Wednesday that piracy off Somalia's coast could deprive the country's poorest of much-needed food aid. The World Food Program has managed to deliver a steady flow of relief over the last 18 months, thanks largely to its use of naval escorts for supply boats approaching the Somali capital of Mogadishu, the northeast port of Berbera and Bosaso in Somalia's Puntland. But before those shipments are turned over to the U.N. aid agency, they are often unescorted and vulnerable to attack. [...] "The ship escort system has worked quite well," said Emilia Casella of WFP, which has been using naval escorts since November 2007. "When we've had escorts, we have had not any incidents of piracy on WFP-contracted ships." WFP shipped 260,000 tons of food to millions of Somalis suffering from drought and violence last year, Casella said. But the agency is worried about a cargo ship hijacked Tuesday while heading to Mumbai, India, to pick up 7,327 tons of WFP food for Somalia. The Lebanese-owned MV Sea Horse was not under WFP contract, but would have flown under the agency's flag once the food was loaded, Casella said. "We're very concerned that people in Somalia would go hungry unless the Sea Horse is released," she said.


16 April 2009

Boyah is a pirate. One of the original “Old Boys”, he quietly pursued his trade in the waters of his coastal home town of Eyl, years before it galvanised the world's imagination as Somalia's infamous “pirate haven”. Boyah is dismissive of the recent poseurs, the headline-grabbers who have bathed in the international media spotlight and it shows; he exudes a self-assured superiority. Pirates are easy to spot on the streets of Garowe, the regional capital: their Toyota 4x4s cluster around equally new white-washed mansions on the edge of town. But to approach them, I am warned, is to invite kidnapping or robbery. [...] The tide of piracy -- 2007: With chaos reigning again, piracy returns - this time on an industrial scale. The World Food Program gives one of the earliest warnings, saying that it now fears for food supply ships bringing aid to Somalia


15 April 2009

Somali pirates fired grenades and automatic weapons at an American freighter loaded with food aid but the ship managed to escape the attack and was heading Wednesday to Kenya under U.S. Navy escort, officials said. Despite President Barack Obama's vow to halt their banditry, and the deaths of five pirates in recent French and U.S. hostage rescue missions, brigands seized four vessels and over 75 hostages off the Horn of Africa since Sunday's dramatic rescue of an American freighter captain. [...] The Liberty Sun, with a crew of 20 American mariners, was carrying humanitarian aid to Mombasa. It had set off from Houston and had already delivered thousands of tons of food aid to Sudan. Spokesman Peter Smerdon of the U.N. World Food Program said some of Liberty Sun's food was destined for Somalia. He said the U.N. agency was worried because more food aid was to have been delivered by another cargo ship hijacked by pirates on Tuesday, the Lebanese-owned MV Sea Horse. It was headed to Mumbai, India, to pick up 7,327 tons of WFP food for Somalia.


15 April 2009

The French navy captured 11 pirates off Kenya and a U.S. cargo vessel evaded rocket fire as Somali hijackers followed through on a threat to increase attacks. The pirates were seized after their attempt to hijack the Safmarine Asia, a Liberian-registered cargo ship, was thwarted by a helicopter from the frigate Nivose late yesterday, France’s Defense Ministry said in a statement. [...] Shortly before the attack on the Safmarine Asia, the crew of the U.S.-flagged Liberty Sun, taking food aid to Africa, used evasive maneuvers to foil a hijack attempt by Somali pirates who fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. [...] The ship, which was chartered by the World Food Program, was carrying 27,000 tons of food aid destined for Kenya, Somalia and southern Sudan, Peter Smerdon, a spokesman for the United Nations agency, said today in a telephone interview. The cargo, which includes maize meal, corn-soya blend, wheat flour, lentils and yellow peas, is enough to feed 1.6 million people for a month, Smerdon said. [...] [Two other ships were seized yesterday, among them the Sea Horse, a Togolese-flagged cargo ship which was heading for Mumbai, India, to pick up WFP food aid for Somalia.]


15 April 2009

A spokesman for the World Food Program, Peter Smerdon, expressed concern that the pirate attacks on food shipment would lead to a delay of needed food relief to Somalia, where drought and civil war has left tens of thousands of people hungry. The cargo ship Maersk-Alabama, freed this week from pirates, is now unloading food in the port of Mombasa, Kenya. But two other ships have been taken or diverted: the Togo-flagged Sea Horse was attacked 700 kilometers from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on its way to pick up 7000 metric tons of maize for the WFP from Mumbai, India. "This is a worrying development for us," said Smerdon: "We are concerned the people in Somalia will go hungry unless the Lebanese-owned Sea Horse is quickly released or a replacement ship can be found. It was due to open a new corridor for the WFP from Mumbai to Somalia to deliver life-saving assistance. So we are alarmed that it was hijacked before it could even do this."


15 April 2009

The US skipper freed in a dramatic rescue after being held hostage off Somalia for days arrived in Kenya Thursday aboard a warship, while Washington said it wants to freeze pirates' assets. [...] US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton unveiled a plan on Wednesday, calling for prosecution and freezing pirates' assets with the support of Washington's international partners. The chief US diplomat added that she was also sending an envoy to an April 23 Somali donors' conference in Brussels to improve the situation in lawless Somalia and help implement the plan. "These pirates are criminals, they are armed gangs on the sea," Clinton told reporters. [...] She said there are "ways to crack down on companies that do business with pirates." The World Food Programme has warned that millions in Africa risk going hungry if pirate hijackings keep aid ships from arriving in Mombasa. While piracy off Somalia has long been a problem for aid freighters, recent hijackings have marked a new development in the attacks, it said in a statement. The attack on the Maersk Alabama "was the first case of a Mombasa-bound ship carrying WFP food being hijacked," the agency said. "If food assistance cannot arrive through Mombasa for Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, southern Sudan and the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, millions of people will go hungry and the already high malnutrition rates will rise."


14 April 2009

President Obama vowed Monday to “halt the rise of piracy” off the coast of Africa following the dramatic rescue of an American merchant captain, foreshadowing a longer and potentially more treacherous struggle ahead as he weighs a series of problematic options.

In permitting members of the Navy Seals to shoot the pirates holding the captain, Richard Phillips, Mr. Obama navigated a crisis that played out in full view of the world. But policy makers and experts said the precision killing of three Somali pirates with three bullets would certainly prove easier than wiping out the larger threat in the shipping lanes or reversing the instability that makes Somalia a breeding ground for pirates and Islamic terrorists.


14 April 2009

[...] The political and economic situation in Somalia is anything but stable. Since 1991 a civil war has been raging as different warlord factions attempt to take control of the country. What’s more, a number of states within Somalia have self-declared themselves as autonomous, yet not independent. [...] It is no wonder, then, that as many as 1,000 men now run in pirate gangs along the coast. Somalia is situated on the Horn of Africa, making it a prime area to attack passing ships. At first the intent was to deter fishing boats from poaching in Somali waters, but as time progressed it became its own lucrative business. It does, however, threaten the stream of humanitarian aid into the region, with as much as 90% of the World Food Programme’s deliveries are moved via ship, which now require a costly military escort. This rise in cost of transporting the food means that there is less to spend on the food itself.


14 April 2009

[...] Piracy is apparently Somalia's biggest industry – and individual pirates are among the troubled country's wealthiest men. [...] It's hard to quantify pirates' effect on the regional and global economies, but anecdotal evidence abounds. [...] In December, Khalid Shapi, director of a tourism firm in Mombasa, in southern Kenya, warned that cruise ships were beginning to avoid East Africa owing to piracy, rendering jobless thousands of Kenyan tourism workers. Jemma Lembere, a logistics manager for the UN World Food Programme in Mombasa, said that ship owners have been reluctant to take on UN contracts hauling the food aid that feeds half of Somalia's 8 million people. Only with the $10m deployment of a European Union naval force, in December, were ship's crews willing to make the dangerous aid run into Mogadishu.