BERBERA — Pirates from Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland have reportedly captured an American Christian couple who were sailing on a private yacht near Yemen.
Jean and Scott Adam were sailing in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Somalia when their yacht came under attack from heavily-armed Somali pirates on Friday. According to the pirates, the yacht is expected to reach Somali soil on Sunday (today).
The Adams were accompanied by two other unidentified American individuals during their voyage around the world in a mission to handout as many bibles as they can to poor countries. The yacht last docked in Mumbai and was on its way to the Gulf nation of Oman when it got intercepted. They have been on the high seas since December 2004 according to their private website.
The attack comes two days after a New York court sentenced the only Somali pirate captured alive by US navy seals from Maersk Alabama attack in 2009 to nearly 34 years in prison. The lawyers of Abdulwali Abdukhadir Muse argued he was an under aged teenager but the Federal Judge Loretta Preska insisted he was a “sadism and violent” man.
According to AFP, FBI assistant director-in-charge Janice Fedarcyk sent a chilling message to other pirates against American ships and interest. “The stiff sentence handed down today sends a clear message to others who would interfere with American vessels or do harm to Americans on the high seas: Whatever seas you ply, you are not beyond the reach of American justice,” he said. However, it appears that message has not gone beyond the US court.
The yacht is expected to be rushed to the tiny fishing port of Eyl, in northern Puntland region of Somalia in the coming hours.
In recent times, the Somali pirates have acquired better attack boats, weapons, safety and communication equipment and as a result have increased their range and successful hijackings. The ransom money has also skyrocketed. In November 2010, a South Korean supertanker paid a record $9 million for ransom and the pirates have since been chasing for a bigger fish.
The pirates are not the only ones cashing in from the lucrative illegal business. Somalia’s Islamist Al Shabab and the Puntland administration led by Dr Abdirahman Farole have all profited from the piracy boom.
Under Harardheere, a small town near the coast, located some 300 kilometres (180 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu the pirates are to pay 20 per cent of their ransom money to Al Shabab group. The town is under the control of the radical group. On Saturday, AFP reported that the pirates in Harardheere were relocating to Hobyo after their negotiations with Al Shabab broke down. Al Shabab responded by arresting four pirates.
In Puntland, the trade is more complex and is linked to officials in the region as well as members of the Diaspora. In the last two years, the President of Puntland has cashed in at least $6-8 million in commissions- some of this money is wired to Australia, where he has a family. Overall, piracy has injected more than $30million into the Puntland economy in the last year.
The Diaspora community also finances the trade by sending small and large sums of money as “investment”. They pay for operating costs which includes fuel, arms and the employees (pirates). Each “investor” will then get his/her cut of the ransom. The ransoms are sometimes dropped in the open sea in water-proof bags and other times its paid into foreign accounts in places such as the United Arab Emirates–where there is large Somali entrepreneurs. Thus no one knows how or when he/she made the millions. A $5,000 investment can get you a $50,000 or more in returns depending on the ransom and number of “investors”.
Many teenagers just like Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse will continue to risk their own lives just to kidnap a ship, yacht or a boat because the so called “investors” have bought his life out. The “investors” send their money prier to the hijack and thus the pirate boss and his teens have to deliver the returns.
If its paid into UAE accounts, the money is wired around the world using Somali money transfer companies. The Somali in Australia who helped paid for the attack boat’s fuel will get his or her agreed share and so on. Often they will use multiple accounts under relatives to send the money in small installments so the hosting government does not suspect them of money laundering.
Many Somali Diasporas are also hired by pirate bosses as “translators” and are sent around the world to purchase marine accessories such as GPS, communication and safty equipment. Many Somali youths have left the Diaspora for the Somali coastal town of Bosasso to become translators.
If the United States and West are serious about resolving the piracy crisis, its going to need more than few words in a U.S. court that Somalis have no clue about and the current approach.
American citizens and families have right to know the reality about piracy. Many of the Somali officials the US government funds are directly linked to the piracy. It needs to improve its intelligence in Somalia. It could and should also stop the illegal overfishing in Somali waters by foreign vessels as well as the dumping of toxic waste by Italian shipping lines from Sicily.
Somalia has not had an effective government since the collapse of Mohamed Siad Barre’s totalitarian regime in 1991. That same year, Somaliland announced its withdrawal from the union and declared its independence.
Despite not receiving international recognition, Somaliland has kept the pirates away from its coast. One reason is that, Somaliland Diaspora is not investing in piracy as are those from Somalia, in particular Puntland region. Somaliland this week unveiled a new-modern prison during a Norwigian delegation visit led by Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Espen Barth Eide. The prison is located in the capital Hargeisa and was funded by a number of EU states including Norway. It will house Somali pirates with the support and approval of the United Nations. Each inmate will have a separate cell with one bed (see Somaliland opens “pirate prison”).
Pirates launched their attacks from several bases along Somalia’s coastline including Garad, Ras Alula and Eyl in Puntland, Harardhere and Hobyo in central Somalia.
Somalilandpress | 19 Feb 2011