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Somali Pirates Undeterred, Hijack Another Vessel

A maritime group says pirates have hijacked another vessel off the coast of Somalia. The East African Seafarers’ Assistance program said the MV Irene E.M. was captured before dawn today.

The latest hijacking came a couple of days after US Special Forces killed three pirates in an assault on a lifeboat holding an American hostage. Some fear that action may raise the likelihood of violence on the high seas.

Said Samatar, a professor of modern African history at Rutgers University at Newark, New Jersey, told English to Africa reporter Douglas Mpuga that the pirates have actually hijacked three vessels. “They now have 16 ships and 285 people.” The pirates also seized a Lebanese-owned cargo ship.They seized a 5,000-ton Togo-flagged MV Sea Horse only hours after taking a Greek-owned carrier.

Samatar said the pirates do not seem to be deterred by the fate of the three pirates killed at sea over the weekend. “And they vowed to kill any American or French sailor they find,” he added.

He cautioned against the use of force, saying, “While you do not want to give the pirates a free hand to just continue taking ships and people hostage, the use of force is not going to stop them. These (pirates) are desperate people and kidnapping has become a business for them.”

Samatar advised that in order to solve the problem in the long term, a way has to be found to provide the pirates with alternative means of survival, such as getting them jobs. He added, “In the meantime, a strong presence of escorts – armed escorts – on the ships could help.”

He said the current hostages are being held onshore in secret hideaway places along the coast. “The only way to get a handle on solving this problem is to work through the Somali elders.”

The professor called for credible intelligence – “human assets on the ground. Once you know who these pirates are, which clans they belong to, find the elders of those clans and put pressure on them.”

Samatar dismissed the idea that the pirates might link up with terrorists or terrorist organizations. “There is no danger. They are not going to link up with anybody. As a matter of fact, all the talk of their connection with Al Shabab, the terrorist group in Somalia, and ultimately with Al Qaeda -- all that is baloney. These guys (pirates) are not connected to anybody. They are running a business - this has become a booming industry.”

Piracy is a lucrative business in Somalia, which has been without a central government since the toppling of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.