News / Africa

    Somali Piracy Diminishes, but Networks Remain a Threat

    Somali Piracy Diminishes, but Networks Remain a Threati
    X
    May 01, 2013 7:00 PM
    On June 3, the United States begins a capital murder trial against three alleged Somali pirates -- accused of killing four Americans at sea. If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced to death. While more pirates are being convicted in courts around the world, the kingpins who profit most from the crime continue their work with impunity. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more.
    Mary Alice Salinas
    On June 3, the United States begins a capital murder trial against three alleged Somali pirates, accused of killing four Americans at sea.  If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced to death. While more pirates are being convicted in courts around the world, the kingpins who profit most from the crime continue their work with impunity.  

    In the last decade, shipping off the coast of Somalia was subjected to relentless pirate attacks, the numbers peaking in 2011 with 176 reported cases. Now, though, international naval patrols and armed guards on ships are keeping the pirates at bay. But this cannot last for long, said Pottengal Mukundan, director of the International Maritime Bureau.

    “The root cause of piracy is not at sea, it is on shore in Somalia," he said. "So long as Somalia has got parts of the country which are ungoverned without law enforcement or judicial systems, piracy is going to continue.

    The pirates operate largely in the open along Somalia’s central coast, making it a high-profit, low-risk enterprise for the kingpins. They have pulled in hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom paid by shipping companies to free their vessels and crews.

    Despite the current security measures, Mukundan said he is not aware of a single criminal piracy network that has been dismantled, providing crime bosses with even more incentive to keep operating.

    • A masked Somali pirate stands near a Taiwanese fishing vessel that washed up on shore after the pirates were paid a ransom and released the crew, in the once-bustling pirate den of Hobyo, Somalia, Sept. 23, 2012.
    • German marine forces as part of the European Union Naval Force Operation Atalanta, intercept a ship with suspected pirates off the coast of Tanzania, November 4, 2011.
    • Crew members of the Panama-flagged cargo ship MV Asphalt Venture freed by pirates look out from the ship at the Kenyan Port of Mombasa, April 28, 2011.
    • South Korean naval special forces take up positions during an operation to rescue crew members on the Samho Jewelry vessel in the Arabian Sea, Jan. 21, 2011.
    • As part of the EU Naval Force Somalia, the German Frigate 'Hamburg' patrols after destroying two fishing boats (L) which were discovered floating keel side up in open waters off the coast of Somalia, August 15, 2011.

    Authorities are navigating a maze of often-conflicting national and international laws that prevent them from getting to the top players, said Donna Hopkins from the International Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.

    “We’re working very hard to identify those people and indict them for crimes of which they are clearly guilty and see that they are charged.  I am not going to tell you who they are but we have a very clear idea who they are.  For the last four years the international community has worked very hard to identify who so we could get at the real guts of this organization," Hopkins said.
     
    The contact group has dozens of members, including governments, industry groups, the United Nations and the African Union. The group has found that the piracy network straddles continents and that some top government officials have been involved, Hopkins said.

    “There are certainly high-level officials inside Somalia and elsewhere who have been complicit in this crime and the money laundering that’s attendant to pushing the ransom money out to other enterprises," she said.

    With no central banking system in Somalia, authorities have had a difficult time following a money trail.

    But the International Maritime Bureau's  Mukundan sees positive signs.  The new government in Mogadishu -- the first one in more than 20 years widely viewed as legitimate -- has vowed to put judicial and law enforcement systems in place.

    “At the moment the signs are very encouraging," he said. "They have a long way to go.”

    The IMB says that in the first quarter of 2013, there were only five reported piracy incidents off the Somali coast. But still, Mukundan warns, international naval might and shipping companies' anti-piracy efforts are just barely holding the line.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Nakameguro, JPN
    May 01, 2013 9:51 PM
    Government officials of Somalia are the kingpins of piracy same as the ancient UK. The UK used to get money from other country's ship using pirates and they became one of the big county by the help of the pirates.

    Commercial vessels have only water jet gun to fight pirates. Do you think they can fight against the pirates with water? We should allow them to have fire weapons to fight.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora