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Surviving Somali Pirate to Answer Charges in US Court Tuesday


The last surviving Somali pirate captured during a botched seizure of a United States ship captain is expected to appear in a Manhattan Federal Court today (Tuesday). The 19 year-old pirate, Abduhl Wal-i-Musi is reportedly charged with hostage taking and piracy. Abdullahi Ali is a political analyst. He told VOA that Tuesday's trial would serve as a deterrent to other pirates who have been harassing ships off the Somali coasts.

"Justice must prevail wherever someone is being tried. What you have to understand here is that in Somalia, which is a failed state, the judicial system has collapsed and presumably there is nowhere else to put them (pirates) on trial apart from in the U.S. But it could have been better if he was to face the same charges in a court of law in his own motherland. So that at least it could be a good example to the rest of the other pirates who will take heed not to go on with the issue of taking ransom for the sake of taking ransom," Ali said.

He said there seems to be two different categories of piracy off the Somali coast.

"As you are aware, piracy has two types. There are the vigilante types who are trying to protect their own fishing stocks and waters from intrusions into their EEZ. And then there are those who are criminals who are trying to make use of this lack of governance in Somalia to make sure that they have their own way trying to take ransom for ships. And these guys should face the full force of the law and I think the U.S will look into the best way of trying to stabilize that part of the world," he said.

Ali said the piracy problem off the coast of Somalia could have been dealt with if adequate funding and logistics had been provided earlier.

"What they (international community) have to understand is currently they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars a month in trying to keep those ships there. A fraction of that or a tenth of that could be used monthly presumably to have a viable coast guard. Because when you are talking about coast guards, in Somalia there is the 1992 arms embargo. So, you cannot have a coast guard which is owned by Somalia who, presumably, will be armed to the teeth because they will be using it for other adventurous goals scoring against other clans," Ali said.

He said the new Somali government under President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed should be part of the solution in resolving the piracy problem.

"So, what you need is a system whereby you can accommodate the current Somali government, but they should not be given everything in terms of guns and money because like in Puntland, if you give them weapons or arms then they may use it for goal scoring against other enclaves; like they may fight against Somaliland," he said.

Ali sharply differed from the new government's assertion that it is doing everything possible to resolve the escalating piracy problems.

"The government is not doing enough," Ali said. "The Puntland government has done nothing on piracy and they have sat on their laurels. And I don't think they are prepared to do anything about that due to some cultural barriers and presumably clannish links. There is also the issue of the federal government or what is also called the unity government. These guys in Mogadishu have no viable military power to challenge the pirates who are on the coast of Somalia," Ali said.

He warned that international terrorist organizations including Al Qaeda could use the piracy issue to recruit and cause havoc to other nations.

"If they are not checked now, international terror gangs may infiltrate into them and then you might have the whole area becoming more sophisticated. And it could be difficult to contain it because we are talking about hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of sea and it is very difficult to control and monitor these areas," he said.

The pirate was reported to have gone aboard a U.S navy vessel before Navy Seal snipers shot and killed three of colleagues who had been holding Captain Richard Philips hostage for at least five days in a life boat. Meanwhile, during the recent hostage standoff off the Somali coast, FBI agents from New York were assigned to investigate the pirate attack on the U. S cargo ship Maersk Alabama and the abduction of its captain, and continued to develop a case for trial.

The pirates had demanded two million dollars before releasing Captain Richard Philips who they had been holding hostage hours after the captain attempted a daring escape from his captors.

During his capture, Phillips jumped overboard into shark-infested waters but was quickly recaptured and brought back onto the lifeboat as officials continued negotiating for the release of the ship captain.

Meanwhile, international donors are expected to begin holding meetings this week in Belgium's capital, Brussels to discuss urgent funding for Somali security forces and African Union peacekeepers in what will be a significant test of support for President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's new government.

Organizers said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will co-chair the meeting with Jean Ping, chairman of the African Union (AU) Commission. Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, is expected to attend, as well as senior officials from the European Union and United States.

The United Nations special envoy to Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, reportedly said the upcoming donor conference should send all Somalis a clear message that the whole international community was focused on fixing the Horn of Africa country's problems once and for all.

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