Friday, March 20, 2009

Somali Marine & Coastal Monitor - Part VI.

Ecoterra – Somali Marine & Coastal Monitor - Part VI. The Latest Piracy News from Somalia, Kenya

Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis
All the recent developments off the Somali coast are to be found in the new Ecoterra Press Release which was issued earlier today. I therefore publish its largest parts immediately.

Ecoterra Intl. – SMCM (Somali Marine & Coastal Monitor) Part VI

Ecoterra International – Update & Media Release

A Voice for the Voiceless, who sit between all chairs, because they are not part of organized white-collar or no-collar-crime in Somalia or overseas and neither benefit from global naval militarization, from the illegal fishing and dumping in Somali waters or the piracy of merchant vessels, nor from the booming insurance business or the exorbitant ransom-, risk-management- or security industry, while neither the protection of the sea, the development of fishing communities or the humanitarian assistance to abducted seafarers and their families is receiving the required adequate funding.

2009-03-20 23h58:18 UTC

EA Illegal Fishing and Dumping Hotline: +254-714-747090 (confidentiality guaranteed) - email:

EA Seafarers Assistance Programme Emergency Helpline: +254-738-497979


News from sea-jackings, abductions or newly attacked ships --------

Greece's Merchant Marine Ministry finally confirmed that pirates have seized a Greek-owned cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. The ministry says the St. Vincent-flagged M/V TITAN, with 24 crew members on board, was seized late Thursday night, while the attack was reported already earlier in the week. Three of the crew members, including the captain, are Greek, according to Police in Athens. The presence of a Ukrainian citizen, staying as an assistant engineer aboard sea-jacked Greek vessel Titan, was confirmed by Vasyl Kyrylych, press secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Ukraine. Now the vessel is going towards the Somalia coast, Kyrylych said, while no casualties have been reported. Other crew members are 3 Romanian and 17 Filipino seafarers. "The Saint-Vincent-flagged cargo vessel was sailing from the Black Sea to Korea with a cargo of metal when it was attacked by pirates", a ministry official, who declined to be named, said and added: "We have informed the anti-piracy centers in the region". The vessel is owner-operated by ALBAMAR Shipping. Last month, pirates in the same area seized another Greek-owned cargo ship, the Saldhana, with a 22-member crew. In January, pirates seized another Greek vessel off the coast of Cameroon and killed its Greek captain. EU forces foiled a pirate attack on a Greek-flagged crude oil tanker off the coast of Somalia in the same month. The vessel was captured despite the strong naval presence in the area.

An Iranian vessel was hijacked off the coast of Somalia by armed fishermen reports the Seafarers Assistance Program office in Mombassa, Kenya. Andrew Mwangura, program coordinator for SAP, told the press that a group of angry Somali fishermen have hijacked an Iranian fishing vessel near the coast of Somalia. Early reports say the hijacking took place after the fishermen confronted the ship for fishing illegally in Somali waters, according to Mr.Mwangura. "I hear that the villagers have taken it because of fishing illegally or for damaging fishing equipment", Mwangura said. "Vigilantes usually move when you destroy their nets or boats and hold the ship until they are paid back", said Mr. Mwangura. On March 16, Puntland residents detained the ship for illegal fishery activities, and residents said they will free the ship when the material damages have been paid. Actually the Iranian-flagged vessel is a industry-ship with a huge fish-processing capability and not just a fishing vessel. The tuna targeting factory ship named "SAFARI" has 14 Iranian crew on board and is now held near Kulub (close to Garcad) pending decisions, if the case could be legally tried somewhere.

The captors of T/B Yenegoa Ocean had promised to allow communications contact from a humanitarian group, but later broke the promise, while the brother of the captain for the abducted 10 Nigerian seafarer seeks answers from the Nigerian government over its inaction.

Malaysian-owned T/B MASINDRA 7 with its Indonesian-owned barge ADM1 was circled 3-times by a small aircraft on Wednesday local marine observers reported, which gave hope to the 11 Indonesian seafarers that their release is near, though local sources maintain that the owner and the pirates still had not reached an agreement. It is presumed that the aircraft was one of the small planes used by the naval intelligence to locate it, since the vessel had briefly moved away from Eyl. The captain of the tug reported earlier this week again that their food and water supply was extremely scarce triggering humanitarian response. One of the two generators on the ship is still defective, since no electrician could be found to repair it. In a further twist the Malaysian government has denied it was involved in a critical stand-off involving Masindra-7 at Hawo last month, while local observers and the captain clearly identified the RMN vessel, KD Sri Indera Sakti, which even had radio communication with the sea-jacked vessel and its Indonesian captain. A Somali speaking person calling himself Abdirahman was on board of that warship and was rather triggering than averting an overreaction by the pirates, who had threatened to blow up the tug and its attached barge, if the warship came closer. The warship has returned since to Malaysia and Malaysian offical stated last week that there would be no Malaysian navy in the area, while Indonesia on Friday sent again a warship to support maintaining security in the waters of Somali following the rampant piracy there, Indonesian Military Commander General Djoko Santoso said.

The wives of 23 Filipino seafarers on board MT STOLT STRENGTH sought the help of the government for the immediate and safe release of their husbands. The spouses of the Pinoy crew of M/T Stolt Strength were determined when they personally appealed for help from the office of Vice President Noli De Castro. Reports said the vessel and its crew members were seized by Somali pirates in November 2008, which makes it one of the longest pending cases. The families complained that Sea Cap, the company that recruited their husbands, and their employer, Sagana Shipping Inc., are not doing anything to safely bring the seafarers home. One of them was able to talk to her husband last week. She was told that the pirates are starving the 23 Pinoy hostages. For his part, De Castro ordered the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to cancel or suspend the license of the manning agency who recruited the 23 Pinoy seafarers. "I asked POEA Chief Jennifer Manalili to inquire if Sea Cap, Shipping Inc., (local manning agency) and Sagana Shipping Inc (principal) are doing everything to bring our Filipino seamen safely back home. Should such efforts be found insufficient to assure the safety of our OFWs, I want the licenses of these companies revoked", De Castro said in a press statement. The Vice President added: "Unless Sea Cap Shipping Inc. and Sagana Shipping Inc., have secured the safe release of the 23 crew members, their continued recruitment of seafarers will pose a danger to our countrymen who may be similarly exposed to such threat when their manning agencies are unable to provide ample protection". One of the determined ladies is even ready to go to Somalia and assist in ending the nightmare for her husband. Local observers reported today that the vessel still might have one anchor, but that at least one other one was lost, while the vessel had not yet returned to Eyl from its forced voyage along the coast southwards to escape a possible coastguard encounter. The vessel is reportedly at present cruising around Danaane-Korioley and expected to come to Kulub/Garcad

SEA PRINCESS II, the controversial Yemeni-flagged vessel with its fuel-cargo was chased by a Puntland coastguard vessel, but escaped again south towards Harardheere. The coastguard ship meanwhile ran out of fuel near Garcad (around 200 km south of Eyl). The wrangles for the release of Sea Princess II are said to still continue between Somali businessmen, the Puntland authorities and her captors, while especially the families of the 8 Indian seafarers on board get more and more worried. Besides the 8 Indian nationals there are 2 Yemeni, in the 15 men crew.

The case of MV JAIKUR I (one), held in Mogadishu harbour since 10th November 2008 due to a pending insurance and court case concerning its damaged cargo, must now be profiled as criminal abduction, since the harbour-master, influenced by powerful businessmen even ignored orders from the Prime Ministers office to release the international crew (i. a. 14 Indian nationals, who are said now to have resorted to a hunger strike). On the other hand the owner of the vessel has so far resisted to remove the vessel from the harbour to an instructed anchorage.

The first set of seven pirates, which sea-jacked German-owned gas-tanker MT LONGCHAMP with one Indonesian and 12 Filipinos on board, have gone back on to vessel - a sign which is interpreted as an indication that the messed-up negotiations might resume. The vessel is currently held near Kulub (17 miles from Garcad).

Negotiations for the release of the Greek-owned MV SALDHANA, held off Kulub (south of Eyl - between Danaane and Garcad) with 22 crew, have not yet proven successful.

The Yemen fishing boat, during whose capture actually the captain was reportedly shot and killed, has been recaptured by a local militia which guarded its illegal fishing. The vessel is reported now to load more fish off Eyl and is set to sail back to Yemen.

The identity of a Chinese fishing vessel arrested at Bargaal north of Eyl end of February could not yet be established.

The Turkish General Staff said that pirates staged an attack on a Turkish commercial vessel named MV Ulusoy 8 in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday night. General Metin Gurak, the head of the Communication Department of the General Staff also said that Turkish TCG Giresun frigate assigned to protect commercial vessels against piracy in the Gulf of Aden prevented the attack by pirates on board two fast-moving skiffs. He said the TCG Giresun immediately headed toward the region and sent a helicopter, foiling the attack.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Fifth fleet said Danish and Turkish warships have foiled a pirate attack in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Yemen. The Vietnamese ship last Saturday reported that it was under attack from two fast-moving skiffs with an unknown number of pirates on board. The Danish warship and Turkish frigate both sent helicopters to assist the Vietnamese ship, and the alleged pirates fled. The report says the Turkish army chief of staff announced that two Turkish helicopters helped repel the attack on the 22,695 dwt Diamond Falcon off Yemen's southern coast after the Vietnamese boat issued a distress signal.

The North Korean vessel, M/V Chong Chon Gang, was attacked on 11th March 400 nautical miles off the Kenya-Somalia border, said East Africa Seafarers Assistance Programme Coordinator Andrew Mwangura. "The vessel was attacked by pirates sailing in a small skiff launched from a mother ship. They fired rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons in an attempt to force the vessel to stop", he said. "The captain took evasive manoeuvres including altering course, increasing speed and activating the vessel´s fire hose and was able to escape, though it (ship) suffered damages", he said Wednesday. During the pirate attack one crew member was hit at the head by a ricocheting bullet. The injured crew member was treated on the ship and is out of danger.

The ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) says also another fishing vessel was chased by a skiff with six pirates armed with automatic weapons about 540nm off east coast Somalia. The fishing vessel increased speed and headed into the waves and swell and prevented the skiff from coming alongside. Later, the skiff aborted the attempt and left the area. The IMB says that the fishing vessel's crew and are safe and continuing passage. The IMB, however, would not reveal the name of the possibly illegally fishing vessel and if it believes that the location was reported correctly.

No further reports from the "Mystery Ship", which was allegedly captured and had engine failure off Raas Hafun, but then could have been re-captured, have provided any clear facts.

All the 28 Egyptian crew members, who were held on M/V BLUESTAR by Somali pirates, returned home safely from Mombassa / Kenya, where the replacement crew of the vessel is awaiting further instructions at A-anchorage. With gunfire whizzing overhead, an Egyptian mechanic had tried to face down Somali pirates attacking his cargo ship with nothing but an ax. But the Egyptian seamen aboard the Blue Star never had a chance in the Jan. 1 attack. Seven pirates armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades were threatening to destroy their ship. Freed after more than two months thanks to a $1 million ransom dropped by parachute from a helicopter, the crew recounted their ordeal Sunday upon their return to Cairo, the International Herald Tribune reported from there. Among their many challenges, they said, was having to fish for their food. Their ship the BLUE STAR, hauling fertilizer from Egypt's port of Suez to Mozambique, strayed into the pirates' path when it was just 22 miles (35 kilometers) from the Yemeni port of Aden. "We were startled when we first received a warning from a Greek ship, since we were inside Yemeni territorial waters", said the ship's captain, Mahmoud Sweidan. The Greek ship had just fled a group of pirates after killing two of them, he said.

Upon receiving the warning, Sweidan decided to take a different route, but the pirates' speed boats were already nearby. Seven pirates opened fire at their vessel, shattering the glass of captain's cabin, said Mohammed Gomaa, a mechanic aboard the ship. "When I saw them approaching, I held an ax, the only weapon we had, trying to protect our ship", Gomaa said. "But they had automatic weapons. Then they opened fire, and one of the bullets hit the cabin only a few centimeters from the captain's head". The Blue Star crew gave up when they saw the pirates' holding RPG launchers and threatening "to blow up the ship". "After about 10 minutes of constant shooting, the pirates climbed the ship, ordered all of us to get down (inside the ship) except for three of us who were on duty, and then we sailed to Somali waters", Gomaa said. During their two months of captivity, food supplies ran low and the crew had to survive by fishing and skipping meals. Sweidan said that pirates threatened to kill two of the sailors if they didn't receive a $6 million ransom they had initially demanded. "These were ... days of terror", the captain recalled. "They treated us very badly, they opened fire over our heads several times. We panicked and we just followed their orders". The pirates agreed to $1 million in ransom after negotiations with the ship owner and the money was dropped to them. The ship and its crew were released March 4, and the ship continued on to Kenya before the crew returned home. During the nasty experience, Sweidan said in an earlier interview in Mombassa they run out of fresh water, diesel, and petrol and were using reserves, with the pirates threatening to sink the ship if no ransom was paid.

With the latest captures and releases now still at least 10 (11 with an unnamed sole Barge which drifted to shore) foreign vessels with a total of not less than 176 crew members accounted for (of which 71 are Filipinos) are held in Somali waters and are monitored on our actual case-list, while several other cases of ships, which were observed off the coast of Somalia and have been reported or had reportedly disappeared without trace or information, are still being followed. Over 134 incidences (including attempted attacks, averted attacks and successful sea-jackings) have been recorded for 2008 with 49 fully documented, factual sea-jacking cases (for Somalia, incl. presently held ones) and the mistaken sinking of one vessel by a naval force. For 2009 the account stands at 38 averted or abandoned attacks and 8 sea-jackings on the Somali/Yemeni pirate side as well as one wrongful attack by friendly fire on the side of the naval forces. Mystery pirate mother-vessels Athena/Arena and Burum Ocean as well as not fully documented cases of absconded vessels are not listed in the sea-jack count until clarification. Several other vessels with unclear fate (also not in the actual count), who were reported missing over the last ten years in this area, are still kept on our watch-list, though in some cases it is presumed that they sunk due to bad weather or being unfit to sail. In the last four years, 22 missing ships have been traced back with different names, flags and superstructures.

Illegal fishing, dumping and trafficking news

A South Korean warship has begun its voyage to Somali waters to join international efforts to fight piracy in the region, marking the first dispatch of the nation's warship since the navy was created 64 years ago. The 4,500-ton Munmu the Great destroyer with a crew of 300 is expected to reach its destination in about three weeks after departing from the Jinhae naval base in South Gyeongsang Province last Friday. "This will mark the first overseas combat deployment of the Korean Navy, which will join international efforts to protect sea lanes in compliance with the U.N. Security Council resolution", President Lee Myung-bak said at the departure ceremony. Lee stressed that the role of the Korean military is growing toward the peace and security of the international community, such as peacekeeping, anti-terror operations and disaster relief efforts. The dispatched "Cheonghae" unit consists of a 4,500-ton KDX-II destroyer, a Lynx anti-submarine helicopter, a RIB speedboat and 300 personnel, including UDT/SEAL special naval forces. The KDX-II destroyer is equipped with two 30mm Goalkeepers capable of firing up to 4,500 rounds per minute, two Mk. 45 127mm guns, eight Harpoon ship-to-surface missiles and 32 SM-2 ship-to-air missiles, the news agency said.

The Korean contingent will not only escort Korean commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden, a vital route for international energy transport, but will also conduct operations to monitor, inspect, stop and seize pirate vessels, using force if required. The task force's deployment mission expires Dec. 31. The mission shows, according to governmental statements, that South Korea, the world's 13th largest economy, is willing to play a bigger role in protecting fishing and cargo vessels and their crew from Somali bandits, certainly contributing to not only enhancing maritime safety but also promoting world peace. The Korean navy may take part in multinational antiterrorism operations in the pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean off Somalia and according to governmental propaganda there is no question that such a mission will open a new horizon for the Korean navy as well as the nation. "We cannot overemphasize the importance of the military's role of protecting Korean citizens and their properties at home and abroad. The dispatch reflects growing concerns that Somali pirates will continue to prey on Korean ships and their crew members".

Korean press reports echoed and expressed hope that the dispatched ``Cheonghae" unit consisting of the destroyer, a Lynx antisubmarine helicopter and a speedboat will successfully accomplish its mission. In addition, the South Korean public is made to believe the Lee Myung-bak administration ought to expand the nation's peacekeeping operations to help settle peace in disputed areas around the world. So far only one Korean merchant ship was sea-jacked by Somali pirates - the 15,000-ton bulk carrier Bright Ruby - holding eight Koreans and 13 Myanmarese in captivity for 36 days, while Somalis still remember the arrest of several illegal Korean fishing vessels, including the tuna fishing ship Dongwon with 25 crew members who were released in return for payment after 117 days of captivity in 2006. In November 2007, two other illegally fishing boats, Mavuno No. 1 and No. 2, were also seized and held with their crew for 174 days until a settlement could be achieved. Many observers fear that Korea actually dispatched its warship only to secure the illegal fishing activities of its fleet, reaping multi-million dollar loots from the Indian Ocean.

Meanwhile two Korean fishing vessels are reportedly operating illegally off the Hobyo coast in Somalia with local militia protection.

Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme disclosed that in Tanzania a crew of Chinese, Filipinos, Vietnamese and Kenyans was being detained at the port of Dar-es-Salaam / Tanzania for allegedly engaging in illegal fishing in Tanzanian waters on board of the China-flagged vessel F/V TAWAQ. The vessel was arrested earlier this month by Tanzanian authorities, who said the operation of the vessel had fraudulently bagged 300 tonnes of tuna instead of the permitted 70 tonnes.

Good News from the Sea: Ocean Conservation Success Stories

Although most oceanic news is full of doom and gloom these days, there are a few success stories.

By Jonathan M. Gitlin

My last post from the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference looked at how the oceans are reacting to our changing climate, and it was all bad news. Unfortunately, "bad news" has become a trend when talking about the seas; ocean acidification, warming water, coral bleaching, floating garbage, pollution, or over-fishing—if you can think of something bad, then it's probably happening in the water.

But one session at the AAAS meeting was able to shine a ray of sunlight into this otherwise gloomy vista. Surprisingly, the session was quite poorly attended; it was certainly one I was looking forward to, and I'd have thought that lots of others would show up too, if only because the idea of a conservation success story coming out of the present-day seas seems hard to fathom.

(Some) good news does exist, though, which is important for those working in the field, according to Dr Nancy Knowlton, one of the session's moderators. As Knowlton put it, students aren't interested in "writing ever-more extensive obituaries" on the oceans, so being able to point to successes ought to draw people into the field.

Long-term thinking

Next up was Greenpeace's John Hocevar, who put the situation with the oceans into some historical context. The last four hundred years of maritime policy has basically been a libertarian's paradise, ever since Hugo Grotius made his case in Mare Liberum that the high seas should be a free-for-all.

As a result of this attitude, early conservationist emphasis on the high seas started with a focus on pollution controls. In the 1970s, we dumped over 10 million tonnes of pollution into the open oceans each year. Starting with the London Convention of 1972, this was slowly reduced until dumping of industrial waste was finally ended in the early 1990s.

Attention then focused on the oceanic mega-fauna such as the great whales—and many of these species are now slowly recovering from the brink of extinction. Current efforts deal with the rampant over-fishing that has become the equivalent of strip mining the seas. Although enforcement of controls like the 1992 UN ban on driftnets is somewhat patchy, individual nations are wising up to the need to safeguard marine resources for future generations. There has even been movement from retailers, with supermarket chains dropping high seas species that are considered to be in danger such as orange roughy, bluefin tuna, Greenland halibut, redfish, and Chilean sea bass.

According to Hocevar, piracy is still an issue, and he wasn't talking about oil tankers off the coast of Somalia. France and Italy are still engaged in pirate fishing of bluefin tuna, and the global problem remains large, with illicit catches estimated at between $10 billion and $23 billion a year.

On the whole, though, tuna can't really be counted as a success story. The regional fisheries management organizations are failing in their attempt to steward the species, although skipjack isn't doing too badly if you simply must have that tuna sandwich or order of sushi. Meanwhile, some countries are starting to call for a complete moratorium on northern bluefin fishing, and a number of Pacific nations have closed the holes between their territorial waters to tuna fishing.

Looking forward, managing the world's fish stocks in such a way that they're still around to be fished for future generations is going to require the sort of clever long term thinking that, thus far, we've not been too good at. Here's hoping we build on some of the efforts described by this panel.

Leatherback Turtles Threatened By Plastic Garbage In Ocean Leatherback turtles, the most widely distributed reptiles on Earth, are threatened with extinction themselves, in large part due to the carelessness of humans. A Dalhousie University professor addresses the threat of plastics to this endangered species. They survived the extinction of the dinosaurs. They're descendants of one of the oldest family trees in history, spanning 100 million years. But today leatherback turtles, the most widely distributed reptiles on Earth, are threatened with extinction themselves, in large part due to the carelessness of humans. We've seen reference to the dangers plastic poses to marine life, garbage that we humans directly and indirectly deposit in the oceans, but how clearly have we received the message? Not well enough according to a recent article in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin co-authored by Dalhousie University's Mike James. "We wanted to see if plastics ingestion in leatherbacks was hype or reality", says Dr. James, senior species at risk biologist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and adjunct professor with Dalhousie´s Department of Biology.

"It was a monumental effort that looked back at necropsies over the last century from all over the world", he explains. (Necropsies are post-mortem examinations performed on animals.) "After reviewing the results of 371 necropsies since 1968, we discovered over one third of the turtles had ingested plastic". Since leatherbacks prefer eating jellyfish, it's widely believed they mistake bags or other plastics for their meals. Since jellyfish and marine debris concentrate where ocean water masses meet, leatherbacks feeding in these areas are vulnerable to ingesting plastic.

Once leatherbacks ingest plastic, thousands of spines lining the throat and esophagus make it nearly impossible to regurgitate. The plastic can lead to partial or even complete obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract, resulting in decreased digestive efficiency, energetic and reproductive costs and, for some, starvation. "Plastics ingestion doesn´t always cause death, but there are clearly health risks to the turtles", says Dr.James. "The frustrating, yet hopeful aspect is that humans can easily begin addressing the solution, without major lifestyle changes", says Dr. James. "It's as simple as reducing packaging and moving towards alternative, biodegradable materials and recycling". Leatherback turtles are classified as critically endangered world-wide. The true population size is not precisely known, as only adult females come ashore for nesting in remote tropical locations.

Directly piracy related news

UN identifies two main piracy networks in Somalia. Two main piracy networks are operating in lawless Somalia and are rooted in coastal fishing communities, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said in a report released Wednesday. The report noted that one network operated in the breakaway Puntland region and the other was based in the southern Mudug region. "It is reported that the most prominent pirate militias today have their roots in the fishing communities of the Somali coast, especially in northeastern and central Somalia and that their organization reflects Somali clan-based social structures", Ban said. In Puntland, the leading pirate group was located in the Eyl district, with other smaller groups operating from Bossaso, Quandala, Caluula, Bargaal and Garacad, he pointed out. He added that by the end of last year, the "Eyl Group" was holding hostage six vessels and their crews and was expected to have earned roughly 30 million dollars in ransom money.

Ban cited increasing "reports of complicity by members of the Puntland administration in piracy activities". But he said it was "encouraging to note that both the former and current leadership of (the breakaway region) appear to be taking a more robust approach in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea" off Somalia. The Mudug network was meanwhile said to have its base in Xarardheere and to have held the Ukrainian MV FAINA vessel, and three other ships, for about five months from September 2008 to last month. "It is widely acknowledged that some of these groups now rival established Somali authorities in terms of their military capabilities and resource bases", the UN secretary general warned. Ban warned in his report that "the issue of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia will be resolved only though an integrated approach that addresses the conflict, lack of governance and absence of sustainable livelihoods on land in Somalia". - AFP reported. "In the interests of a durable solution to piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia, it is important that local coastguards in the region, where possible, are assisted in ways that will enable them to constructively play a role in the anti-piracy efforts conducted off the coast of Somalia and the surrounding region. As part of a long-term strategy to promote the closure of pirates' shore bases and effectively monitor the coastline, I therefore recommend that Member States consider strengthening the capacity of the Coastguards both in Somalia and the region", says Mr. Ban.

This was immediately misinterpreted by commercial fisheries as Ban having called for Member-States to re-establish the free passage of fishing vessels through Somalia waters - a self-serving misinterpretation without any legal backing published by In reality measures include protective escorts for WFP-contracted vessels with the result that no further attacks have been made on such ships, the Secretary-General says, urging that long-term continuity for those escorts be assured. The UN Secretariat, Mr. Ban affirms, will continue to perform a central role in information and coordination in combating piracy and he urged all Member States to keep it updated about their anti-piracy activities. UNSG report can be found i. a. here:

The decision by Kenya to prosecute Somali pirates will either expose its population to attacks by pirate sympathisers or bring it out as a hero of preservation of global peace and security, legal analysts have said, according to Steve Mbogo, asking in his Business Week article: "Will prosecution of pirates open country to revenge attacks?" Since January, Kenya has signed two bilateral agreements, one with the United States and the other with European Union, allowing them to hand over arrested pirates to Kenyan Police for prosecution. The analysts are surprised at the zeal of Kenya in signing the agreements, especially because all other eastern Africa coastline nations declined similar partnerships with the EU and the US. Kenya has been a victim of three major global terrorist attacks, and was expected to be more cautious on agreements that could expose its citizens to similar attacks. But it appears the foreign policy priority favoured playing a key role in preservation of maritime security, whose consequences could go either way. There is nothing wrong with Kenya´s decision to agree to prosecute the pirates, some analysts say, because any member of the United Nations can sign a bilateral agreement with the other that includes exchange of suspects.

The fact that some pirates are arrested in international waters, where no country can claim their citizenship makes Kenya´s offer of prosecution practically acceptable. Mohammed Guyo, a Horn of Africa security dynamics expert with the Institute of Security Studies in Nairobi, said the legality of Kenya accepting pirates is questionable because the country does not even have relevant law to prosecute pirates. He said for political correctness, agreements on the prosecution of pirates should be made between the Somalia government and the countries hunting down the pirates. But he said every member of the UN has a responsibility to preserve global peace and security, and Kenya´s decision to prosecute pirates could be based on this conviction. " Trying pirates in Kenya is very risky!", states renowned scholar and professor of terrorism and counter-terrorism studies at Murdoch University, Australia, Sam Makinda.

The agreement the Kenyan government is reported to have signed with the US and UK governments as well as the EU to have Somali pirates tried in Kenyan courts is without precedent. The trials carry substantial risks and security threats, and their legality could be challenged under international law, says Prof. Makinda. There is no doubt that the surge in piracy off the Somali coast in the past few years has threatened free international trade, caused shipping insurance premiums to rise and invited strong measures from the international community. Piracy is a war-like criminal activity, but those who participate in it are neither soldiers nor terrorists. Moreover, piracy often takes place outside the territorial waters of most states, which renders the prosecution of pirates complex. To some extent, the prosecution of pirates on the high seas appears to contravene the conventional freedom of the high seas. However, because of concept of universal jurisdiction, actions have been taken against pirates without objection from any country. This situation appears to have changed when the UN Security Council last year passed several resolutions under Chapter VII of its charter authorising member states to use all powers necessary to deal with piracy off the Somali coast. These resolutions went beyond the traditional legal powers and permitted those fighting pirates off the Somali coast to pursue the pirates inside Somalia´s territorial waters and on dry land.

Naval forces

It is partly for this reason that naval forces from over 20 countries are cooperating on the issue. Western countries have decided not to try the arrested pirates in their own law courts due to a number of factors. So for several months, the pirates captured by Western navies have been set free, only to find them offending again. However, late last year Kenya agreed to have pirates captured on the high seas tried in its courts.

While I have repeatedly called for strong action against pirates off the Somali coast, I have reservations about Kenya´s decision. First, Kenya would be justified to try pirates captured in Kenyan waters or captured on the high seas by Kenyan forces. However, trying pirates captured by third parties is wrong. Article 105 of the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) codifies universal jurisdiction in cases of piracy and states that "every State may seize a pirate" on the high seas, but the prosecution must be undertaken by "the courts of the state which carried out the seizure". The drafting history of this provision shows that it was intended to bar the transfer of pirates to third parties. My second reservation is that Somali piracy stems from the breakdown in law and order, and is supported by key warlords and other political players in Somalia.

The pirates are mere puppets. Trying the puppets in Kenyan courts while leaving the puppet-masters untouched will not resolve the problem. Thirdly, Western countries have been unwilling to try Somali pirates in their courts because they know that such an action is both a risk and security threat. By trying the Somali pirates, Kenya has accepted the risks and security threats involved. Kenya´s decision is, however, favoured by the existing legal instruments meant to fight piracy. They include the 1958 Convention on the High Seas and the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention as well as the 1988 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation.

Japan ordered on Friday two naval vessels to join international patrols aimed at curbing pirate attacks off Somalia, after months of deliberations on how to help protect cargo ships without breaching its pacifist constitution. The public concern has been that Japan must not be drawn into military actions far beyond its own shores and interests. About 400 MSDF personnel and eight coast guard officers are aboard the two destroyers, each of which carry two SH-60K patrol helicopters and two speedboats, officials told Kyodo. The 4,650-ton Sazanami and 4,550-ton Samidare destroyers left their base in the southern port city of Kure after a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Taro Aso and Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada. But the mission is only authorized to engage in maritime policing activities in line with the Self-Defense Forces Law, meaning the destroyers can fire warning shots in the course of their mission, but are not allowed to harm others except in legitimate self-defense, such as when a hostile party opens fire. The plan to fire a warning shot no closer than 50 meters from suspected pirate vessels was seen as the best way of conforming to these guidelines. "Warning shots by a machine gun should be fired at the surface of the water about 50 meters in front of a pirate vessel".

So reads one restriction on the use of weapons that applies to the two destroyers dispatched by the Maritime Self-Defense Force to waters off Somalia. If a suspected pirate vessel approaches a Japanese merchant ship, the MSDF destroyers have been told to contact the vessel and advise it to change course immediately or else armed force will be used. However, any warning shots are to be fired within the confines of the above guidelines. The MSDF recently conducted shooting practice in waters around Japan. During the exercise, a volley was fired from 12.7mm machine guns mounted on a destroyer at a target about 500 meters away. Tracer bullets left red streaks of light that confirmed their trajectory. But moments later the streaks were seen hitting the crests of waves and ricocheting in every direction. After watching video footage of the exercise, a senior MSDF officer explained: "Any shots we fire will ricochet dramatically after hitting the water's surface. So we have to be aware of what will happen if we fire any warnings".

The senior MSDF officer said shooting at such close range likely would be effective in deterring piracy but added, "Given the likelihood that bullets fired as warning shots will ricochet, there's a high possibility that close-range shooting will lead to injury or even death" - a statement not taken lightly by Japanese and International Human Rights organizations, who criticize mainly that Japan like Germany earlier has bee coerced by war-mongering countries under the disguise of peace-keeping into abandoning their pacifist constitutional safeguards. Japans navy is also under investigation on other fronts: Idealistic and interested in promoting humanitarian assistance abroad, Tomohisa Irino joined Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in 2004. But just one year later, the 21-year-old petty officer committed suicide. In the notebook he left behind, along with his expressions of appreciation for his family and friends, Irino scribbled "I will never forgive you", and cursed Osamu Sato, his superior at the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF).

According to the lawyers of his parents, who filed suit in 2006 against the government and Mr. Sato, Sato would shoot at him and other young officers with a BB gun on their destroyer. He is also said to have extorted money from Irino. But the SDF denied that the bullying was linked to the suicide, although they were aware that Sato was convicted of extortion and assault against other officers in 2005. "The SDF was well aware of the reality of bullying, but they neglected the problem irresponsibly", says Hisashi Okada, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, whose case was heard in February. "What we are doing is to shed light on a structural defect in the SDF". Japan's military has been rocked by a series of scandals in recent years and Wednesday Japan´s Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) commissioned its largest helicopter carrier amid international concerns. The 197-meter long, 13,950-tonne Hyuga, which can carry 11 helicopters on its flat deck, will be stationed in Yokosuka port, near Tokyo, and is expected to be sent on overseas missions such as disaster relief, according to the defence ministry. The carrier raises concern in the region.

The grave dangers the naval build-up poses became clear, when two US navy vessels collided in the Strait of Hormuz, lightly injuring 15 sailors. The US Navy reported that a nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Hartford, and an amphibious transporter the USS New Orleans collided early on Friday. According to the US Navy Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, the incident is being investigated and damage to both ships is being evaluated. A navy statement confirmed that the New Orleans' fuel tank was ruptured in the crash, causing a spill of 25,000 gallons (90,000 litres) of diesel. No injuries were reported aboard the New Orleans and the atomic propulsion system of the submarine was not damaged by the incident, the statement said. The navy said both vessels were on regularly scheduled deployments to the region and conducting security operations and added "Both ships are currently operating under their own power", while shipping was not disrupted in the strait after the incident. "There is no disruption to shipping traffic in the strait. Both ships are operating under their own power and have passed through the strait", said Lieutenant Nathan Christensen, a Fifth Fleet spokesman reiterated. In 2008, more than 15 million barrels of oil were transported through the Strait of Hormuz every day, equivalent to about 40% of seaborne oil traded globally. The US Fifth Fleet, working alongside US Naval Forces Central Command, patrols an area of about 7.5 million square miles of sea in the Middle East and eastern Africa. The area covers the coasts of 27 countries and includes the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean, as well as the important shipping lanes of the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal. The incident comes a month after a British nuclear submarine was involved in a collision with a French nuclear sub in the middle of the Atlantic. HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant were badly damaged in the crash in heavy seas. Both the UK and France insisted nuclear security had not been compromised by that collision.

"THE industry has talked openly for years about acceptable levels of risk when it comes to safety, but can there ever be an ´acceptable´ level of piracy?" asks Richard Meade in his Lloyd's List article titled: "Weighing up risk". It seems clear that naval operations in the Gulf of Aden are having a positive effect on security in the region. Successful attacks on vessels are down and with a clear legal mandate to prosecute pirates now supporting the arsenal of military hardware on offer, it seems the risk-reward balance could be tipping back in favour of the ship owner. But without a sustained naval presence in the region, experts agree that the significant gains of the past few months could very quickly be lost. Maintaining political engagement long term will be difficult for the industry once this issue inevitably drops off the mainstream media´s radar. Once the spotlight fades, the multi-million dollar budgets for anti-piracy operations may not seem such an urgent priority for governments struggling to bail out their own economies. The hope is that by this time a more sustainable solution will be in place. Capacity building projects on land, regional support and involvement, together with a UN commitment to long-term support for Somalia are ultimately the best hope of an enduring political solution. However, it is unlikely that we will see the benefit of such projects any time soon. Until we do, it is likely that both governments and the pirates will keep a close eye on the risk-reward balance and asking themselves what they can get away with.

Combating Piracy 09, a pay-for conference by ICS in April in London arises from the urgent need to share the most effective tactics to evaluate risk, identify and avoid threats during passage, prepare and protect crews, and rapidly access support during an incident. The event shall present the latest military intelligence on pirate behaviour and provide for briefings on international action, including an update on Operation ATALANTA, recent developments in the UN and IMO to address piracy in the Gulf, and the outcome of the Djibouti Regional meeting/Djibouti Code of Conduct. Conference highlights include:

An analysis of the legal issues in the development and conduct of the maritime security mission by Commodore Neil Brown, Royal Navy

Valuable steps to protect shipping will be revealed by Christian Dupont, Deputy Head of Unit for Maritime Security, European Commission

A US perspective on piracy will be analysed by Owen Doherty, Director, Office of Security, MARAD

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden called on radical Islamists in Somalia to overthrow new President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, an audiotape posted on the Internet on Thursday showed. Sheikh Sharif, a moderate Islamist, was elected president of the war-ravaged African state in January following UN-brokered reconciliation talks but faces a tough task to bring peace to a country wracked by civil war since 1991. "This Sheikh Sharif ... must be fought and toppled", bin Laden said in a message addressed to the "champions of Somalia", the third audiotape attributed to bin Laden that has been broadcast this year, AFP reported. "He is like the [Arab] presidents who are in the pay of our enemies", he said in the tape, whose authenticity could not be immediately confirmed. Bin Laden said Sheikh Sharif has "changed and turned on his heels" as a result of American "enticements" and agreed to mix Islamic Shariah law with civic laws in the troubled Horn of Africa country.

The Somali Cabinet agreed on Tuesday to introduce Islamic law, a move Somalia's president said was "to ensure that he who claims that he is fighting to have Shariah no longer has a reason to fight". Bin Laden warned Islamist militants against heeding calls to be patient and give the president time to implement Shariah. "My Muslim brothers in Somalia: You must beware of the initiatives which wear the dress of Islam ... like the initiative attributed to some of the ulama [academics] of Somalia which gives Sheikh Sharif six months to implement Islamic Shariah", he said. "They are asking him [to build] something he was in fact installed to demolish", he said. "It is a duty to fight the apostate government and not stop the battle". Islamist fighters, including the hard line Shebab militia, have waged battles against the government and its allies since and before the new president came to power, vowing to fight until all foreign forces withdraw and Shariah law is imposed.

The Shebab, which controls large swathes of Somalia, is a hard line Islamist organization opposed to the present national unity government. But a group of influential Somali Islamic clerics has rejected Osama bin Laden's call to Somalis to overthrow the country's new president, the group's leader said on Friday, according to AP. In the audiotape, bin Laden called Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed a turncoat and tool of the United States. Last year, the U.S. State Department added al-Shabab, which means "the Youth", to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. Somalis are tired of war and want law and order, said Sheik Bashir Ahmed Salad, leader of the Council of Correction and Reconciliation. "We clearly condemn Sheik Osama's statement. It was unfair that he (Osama bin Laden) ignored the role of the ulema (clerics)", Salad told The Associated Press. "We as 'ulema' (clerics) are the eyes and ears of the entire Somali population and we emphasize that we are tired of wars and violence. We want and support the government led by (President) Sheik Sharif (Sheik Ahmed)", Salad said. "This country belongs to Somalis, who are 100 percent Muslims. ... Our interest is law and order". The Council of Correction and Reconciliation is an influential group of Islamic clerics that is not allied to any Islamic militia. It has in recent months been mediating among the rival Islamic groups to get them to stop fighting each other as the ensuing violence puts civilians in more danger. Most Somalis are moderate and chafe against rules prohibiting music or sports.

The UN Security Council gave a stamp of approval Friday to Somalia's new unity government and urged increased international aid to African Union (AU) peacekeepers trying to contain the violence in the lawless country, AFP reported. After a briefing by Somalia's new foreign minister Mohamed Abdullahi Omaar, the 15-member body adopted a non-binding statement that welcomed "the positive political developments and progress" since the UN-brokered national reconciliation talks in Djbouti last year. These, it noted, included the election earlier this year of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist cleric, the establishment of an inclusive parliament and the subsequent formation of a unity government led by Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Shamarke.

The statement said council members "encourage the international community to extend financial and technical support to the government in its efforts towards rebuilding vital institutions, especially in the areas of security and the rule of law". It praised "the valuable contribution" made by the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and called on the international community to provide the mission "additional resources for it to better fulfill its mandate". Earlier, Britain's UN Ambassador John Sawers said London would give an additional 10 million pounds (14.4 million dollars) to an UN trust fund for AMISOM. "This is in addition to the five million pounds (7.2 million dollars) that we have already given directly to the African Union for AMISOM", Sawers said. "We encourage others also to contribute". Omar meanwhile asked the AU to deploy three additional battalions of Ugandan and Burundian troops to beef up its mission.

"This needs to be undertaken immediately with improved equipment, logistics and medical facilities", he added. AMISOM comprises Ugandan and Burundian contingents totaling around 3,400 men in Mogadishu, but has been unable to contain the violence that has raged since it was deployed in 2007. The AU had initially pledged 8,000 troops. Omar also urged the Security Council to lift its 17-year arms embargo to help Somali forces properly equip in their bid to defeat hard line Islamist fighters. The Security Council embargo imposed in January 1992 has been constantly violated with weapons mainly coming from Yemen and financed by Eritrea as well as Arab and Islamic donors, according to a recent UN report. Omar hailed the integration of transitional government troops and a faction of the opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) into the Joint Security Forces (JSF) following UN-brokered reconciliation talks in Djibouti last year. "If the JSF is to be equipped by the international community to partner with AMISOM and to secure peace, the embargo on the government has to be re-addressed", he added. "The JSF is not funded, resources or equipped up to now. Yet it is the essential partner of AMISOM for peacekeeping".

Meanwhile the UN special envoy for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, hailed the fact that the president, the prime minister, the cabinet and parliament had all moved back to Mogadishu, the capital. "Somalia is back from the brink", he said. He also focused on the issue of rampant piracy off the Somali coast and welcomed the international naval presence to deter it as "a show of solidarity with the country and the whole region". Omar also stressed the importance of the April 22 Brussels conference, sponsored by the AU and the UN to raise funds for AMISOM and Somali security forces. "Without these resources, visible and effective demonstration of the authority of the state and the rule of law will not be achieved and peace will not be secured", he noted.

The Security Council press statement on Somalia was delivered today by the President of the Security Council, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham ( Libya):

The African Union urged the Security Council on Friday to approve a U.N. peacekeeping force for Somalia to help the new government there restore peace and stability after 18 years of anarchy, IHT reports. The council adopted a resolution in December expressing its intention to establish a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Somalia to replace the African Union force in the capital, Mogadishu. But it set a June 1 deadline for a final decision to assess the volatile situation in the country. Ambassador Ramtane Lamamra, the African Union's commissioner for peace and security, told the council that the security situation in Somalia remains volatile. Still, he said, the election of a new president and the government's return to the capital should be supported by the international community and the Security Council — including with approval of a U.N. peacekeeping mission.

This, he said, would to ensure "that the current window of opportunity so far created in Somalia would not have been lost". The African Union has been lobbying since last year for U.N. peacekeepers to replace the AU force, known as AMISOM, which has only managed to deploy 3,450 of the 8,000 troops the AU authorized. Lamamra welcomed the December resolution, which also calls on the U.N. to establish a trust fund to provide financial support to AMISOM and to support the re-establishment and training of Somali security forces. "I therefore call upon the council to build on its position and take the necessary decision to deploy a follow-on peacekeeping operation to take over AMISOM", he said. Lamamra told the council that the AU had renewed AMISOM's mandate on March 11 for another three months "in anticipation of the Security Council decision to deploy a follow-on peacekeeping force". That means the AU mandate will end on June 11 — shortly after the Security Council makes its decision on a U.N. force. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the council earlier this month that in the dangerous climate in Somalia, "uncertainties" remain about whether a U.N. force is the right tool to support the new government. Britain's U.N. Ambassador John Sawers and France's U.N. Ambassador John-Maurice Ripert — both veto-wielding council members — said they were waiting for the secretary-general's next report in April on a possible peacekeeping operation in Somalia. "Recent developments in Somalia give us some grounds for cautious optimism", Sawers said, adding that challenges faced by the new government "remain immense".

He announced that Britain will be giving an additional 10 million pounds ($13.6 million) to the AMISOM trust fund. U.S. deputy ambassador Rosemary Di Carlo made no comment about a possible U.N. peacekeeping force but agreed that "recent events present an opportunity to make real progress in Somalia". Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 and is driven by fighting among clan warlords and an Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing for their lives. Nearly half its population of 10 million is dependent on aid. Somalia's new foreign minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Omar, urged the international community to beef up AMISOM, fund Somalia's new Joint Security Forces, provide humanitarian aid to more than 3 million Somalis, and help the government promote development and establish the rule of law. "We welcome and support the commitment to establish a (U.N.) peacekeeping force for Somalia and we confirm that a significant number of the benchmarks" in the secretary-general's report "are in place already", Omar said. The top U.N. envoy in Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, told the council that "Somalia is back from the brink."

Chief of Somalia´s intelligence service Col. Mohamed Darvish was sacked on Thursday, while a predecessor is named. In their weekly meeting in Mogadishu, the cabinet of the federal government voted on sacking the former chief Col. Mohamed Warsame Darvish, who was one of the powerful men in Mogadishu for the last three years. He was replaced by a new Chief of Intelligence Mohamed Sheikh Hassan. Farhan Ali Mohamud, the information minister told Horseed Media that the proposal to discharge the chief intelligence was recommended by the current Minister of Security Col. Omar Hashi Adan. Col.Darvish was one of the close associates of the former TFG President Abdullahi Yusuf, the cabinet´s decision did not surprise the former chief who is currently in Nairobi, Kenya.

Kenya signs landmark pact to collect taxes for Somalia Kenya will begin to collect revenue on behalf of the Somali government on all exports and imports into Somalia, following the signing of a landmark agreement which would see Nairobi train Somali customs officers, officials said here. Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetang'ula and Somalia´s Deputy Prime Minister Sharif Adan, also Somali´s Finance Minister, signed the agreement on 18 March, offering the new Somali government one of the foremost institutions that it has lacked for ages, reports PANA. Kenya´s Revenue Authority (KRA) will offer revenue officers to retrieve revenue on behalf of Somalia´s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) at various exit points within the Kenyan territory to bolster efforts to set up a stronger Somali government. "Kenya will provide training opportunities to Somalia civil servants in personnel, revenue collection, security and related fields", Wetang'ula said in a statement obtained here Friday. The two countries signed a Memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Thursday in which Kenya is also offering to provide more technical assistance to the new Somali government to set up institutional structures and other arms of government. Somalia has a parliament of more than 500 members, mostly bringing together members of the former Islamist Movement, the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts, members of the TFG, the civil society and former prominent warlords and their supporters.

Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed met Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki on 9 March on his first official foreign trip since assuming his top post as the leader of Somalia, to discuss technical issues relating to the running of his government in Nairobi. Wetang´ula expressed optimism on the benefits of the MOU, and said it would address the problems facing the common Somalia civilians. Under the technical and humanitarian assistance, Kenya will facilitate the TFG with the establishment of government structures, institution and capacity building. Wetang´ula said goods from Kenya bound for Somalia would be taxed on behalf of t he TFG at three exit points before leaving the country. Wilson Airport, Nairobi´s busiest airport serving regional flights which also handles the bulk of air traffic to Somalia, Mandera and Liboi border points, will be staffed with personnel from KRA and revenue officers from Somalia. The two countries also formed a joint technical advisory team which will address the immediate needs and ensure implementation of the provisions covered in the MOU. The deal between the two states comes three years after a similar one was signed between the states on Technical and Economic Agreement in 2005. The two countries then pledged to cooperate on areas of mutual interest, that is, security, immigration and technical assistance.

Kenyan officials have emphasized on the importance of empowering the people of Somalia to run their country, insisting that the collection of tax is important as it is the cornerstone for operation in any government. Wetang'ula reiterated the crucial importance of assisting the Somalis achieve absolute control of their government, since it will boost security in the region, besides improving the quality of life for all citizens of Somalia.

Somali government officials in El Barde have threatened that they will attack recapture towns in Bay and Bakol regions from the Islamist insurgents of al-Shabab, witnesses told Shabelle radio on Friday. Aden Mohamed Nor known as (Saransor), a government member in El Barde told Shabelle radio that they are ready to attack Rabdhure, Wajid and Hudur towns in the regions where the Islamic organization of al-Shabab controls. Mr. Saransor said that they prepared more militias from Bay, Bakol and Lower Shabelle region and added that they are ready to launch attacks against the Islamist insurgent forces of al-Shabab in the regions. Asked about whether Ethiopian troops supporting them, he denied saying more on that and also yesterday's meeting with the Ethiopian troops in El Barde in Bakol region. The statement of the government officials in El Barde comes as the traditional elders and scholars of Bay and Bakol regions called for the warring sides earlier to halt fighting as soon as possible to remain the displacing people in their houses.

Somalia´s hard line al Shabaab insurgents have beheaded two Sheikhs from a rival Islamist movement, a spokesman for the Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca group said on Friday. An Ahlu Sunna spokesman said the two religious leaders had been injured by stray bullets during the clashes. He said they were later captured by al Shabaab gunmen as they were being driven to hospital in the capital. "Elders told al Shabaab that the sheikhs were not fighters, but they turned a deaf ear and beheaded them", Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Abu Yusuf, the spokesman, told Reuters. Yusuf said the killings took place in Balad town, 30 km north of Mogadishu. He also accused al Shabaab militants of decapitating three elderly women last weekend. Al Shabaab officials could not immediately be reached for comment. In a statement posted on their website,, today, al-Shabaab welcomed bin Laden´s support and again denounced Ahmed as the leader of a "non-Muslim" government.

At least 14 people were killed Wednesday when pro-government militiamen and an extremist Islamic group clashed in southern Somalia, according to witnesses. In a separate location in Rab Dhure, Nuney Mo'alim told the AP, she saw six pro-government militiamen die when al-Shabab fighters hit their pickup truck with a rocket-propelled grenade. The pro-government fighters' pickup was mounted with a machine gun to make what is called locally a battle wagon. Shine Moalin Nurow, a leader of the pro-government militia, said the militia lost a number of fighters but did not give a figure. Our aim was to retake the towns we had lost to al-Shabab. We will regroup and wage another war in the coming days," Nurow told AP by phone. The government now directly controls only a few blocks of Mogadishu and the border town of El Berde. Separately, four African Union peacekeepers were injured in Mogadishu, the capital, in two roadside explosions, said Gaffel Nkolokosa, an AU spokesman. The AU peacekeepers' mandates is restricted to guarding key government installations in Mogadishu but hard line groups view them as an occupying force.

Somali students took to the streets, demanding that AMISOM stops using civilian districts and universities as military bases in Mogadishu. Thousands of student activists on Thursday began rioting in the Hodon district of the Somali capital, calling for the reopening of roads closed by AMISOM so that people could return to their homes. In the north of Mogadishu, nearly 25 thousand people including teachers and the elderly shouted "Do not force us to join the armed groups", Press TV's Somali correspondent reported. In a Thursday press conference, Deputy Mayor of Mogadishu Abdi Fadti Sabriye Shaaweye condemned World Food Program (WFP) officers, accusing them of storing provisions instead of distributing them and of neglecting Mogadishu residents on the verge of starvation.

A World Food Program contractor was killed by unknown gunmen as he arrived at his home in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, on Wednesday evening. Ahmed Mohamed Moalim, was one of the distributing contractors of the WFP in Mogadishu. No one knows the motive behind the killing, but relatives says two masked gunmen shot him at point blank range as he stepped out from his car in front of his home in the capital of Somalia. This week, Ahmed Moalim was part of the world food program team who were conducting food distributions in refugee camps just out side Mogadishu.

The editor of an independent newspaper YOOL in Somaliland has been sentenced to five months in jail. Mr. Mohamed Abdi "Urad", editor of the Yool weekly newspaper, was arrested by police on Feb. 27 in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. In court, Mr. Urad was charged with operating an "illegal newspaper" and "publishing false reports" by the attorney-general, our correspondent reported. Further, the Yool newspaper has been ordered to shut down. Relatives of Mr. Urad called the sentence unfair and demanded an appeal. Mr. Urad is well-known in Somaliland journalism circles, as he once served as the editor of the independently-owned Jamhuuriya daily newspaper. Somaliland's government has tough restrictions against the free press, including a complete ban on independent radio stations.

However, newspapers and Websites operate freely in the breakaway region as source of independent reporting. Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 but has not been recognized internationally. The political crisis is becoming hot, as the presidential election earmarked for 29 March has been unilaterally postponed by the Electoral Commission whose 5 of the 7 men Committee blindly support the President. Opposition parties call for a caretaking government when the extended term of the President end on 6th April 2009. That threat was rejected by the President upon his arrival of Hargeysa yesterday, back from undeclared trip to London, Addis and Jabouti. Most Somalilanders believe the President is acting like a dictator and many believe he is holding on his authority to fail the state and even boastfully stated as reported by tribal elders, "Either give me another term or I will let the cat out of the cage. The corner clans with Isaq collaborators can turn this nation upside down". "You need me whatever wrong I did", he added. It is that fantasy that drives him to the Never-never-land.

Abdiweli Sheikh Hassan the director of ETN TV, was released on bail by the Bosaso police after one night in custody. Mr. Abdiweli was arrested on Tuesday by the Puntland authority, while traveling from Bosaso to Garowe, the capital of Puntland. According to government sources in Puntland, the arrest is not linked with any press issue, but a financial disagreement. No further details is released by the Police nor the director himself.

Canadian freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout and Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan have been held captive in Somalia for now almost seven months.

Officials from France´s embassy in Djibouti and members from France´s Senate Committee for Foreign Affairs on Thursday unveiled a new French language center in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. The new center will become a point of contact between France and Somaliland, as well as breaking the communication barrier between the two people - Somalilanders traditionally learned Somali, Arabic and English. In recent days, French diplomats and investors have been pouring into Somaliland many visiting key infrastructures such as Berbera port, Hargeisa airport and other places - looking for possible investment in Somaliland´s natural resources and infrastructures. Somaliland has historical friendship with France, in World War I and World War II, Somaliland troops fought along side soldiers from France and Djibouti to protect Somaliland and Djibouti.

Impacting news from the global village

The situation in Yemen is taking a new turn as a government rapid response team was sent to investigate a terrorist attack on Korean tourists in the city of Shibam near Sanaa airport. The attack on Wednesday is believed to have been a terrorist bomb. The government has blamed it on al Qaeda and said it was carried out by a suicide bomber who was trained in Somalia. Some are analyzing this as a calculated attempt by terrorist leaders to increase the effects of its initial attack with a "second terror bombing" targeting South Korea. The bombing Monday in Shibam, which left four Korean tourists dead, was planned as the first "operation" conducted following the formation of "Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula", reported Al Jazeera, a Qatar-based satellite TV channel well-acquainted with the Islamic world. This means that the operation was carried out with special import attached to it by the newly formed Al-Qaeda organization.

The second terrorist attack targeting the government rapid response team and surviving family members of the victims is provoking concerns that it may have been a signal from Al-Qaeda that it is not stopping at isolated terror attacks. The speculation is that even if Al-Qaeda did not initially single Koreans out when carrying out the first attack in Shibam, they may have done so with the second attack after seeing the considerable effects of the first incident in South Korea and internationally. There is the possibility that Al-Qaeda may be using this incident as part of an effort to express its opposition to the redeployment of South Korean soldiers to Afghanistan, which the United States is calling for, and that it could try to wage a war of international opinion on the expansion of the U.S. troop deployment to Afghanistan. In a recorded message last month, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasser al-Wahaishi, said that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh had permitted military operations by a multinational navy, including British and French forces in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, in order to suit Western tastes. There is also a possibility that Al-Qaeda will take issue with South Korea´s recent deployment of its Cheonghae Unit to the sea off the coast of Somalia.

Many of the Somali-American men who were recruited to join an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group have returned to the United States, but the FBI still has not revealed publicly if it is pursuing arrests in the case. The FBI had warned that that the US is facing its most serious instance of domestic terrorism till now. A second generation of Somali immigrants are becoming increasingly radicalised and could pose a growing threat to security, according to US officials. Al Qaeda radicalised a group of 20 young Somali American men who returned to their war-torn homeland. Some of the young men who were missing aren´t missing anymore. Some of them got blown up and some of them came back, and some of them are still there in Somalia, FOX News quoted a source, as saying.

Unbalancing Perfectionism or Perfect Imbalance! - The European Commission is to invest EURO 105 billion (£97 billion) in green projects only for member countries in its latest budget, thereby almost tripling the amount earmarked in the last round, while it had to auction off recommended green NGO projects "because the EU doesn't have the funding". And the EC budget for less than 20 European NGOs still working for Somalia is set to only 2.5 million Euro for all together during the next year. The roughly 50 registered Somali NGOs could only apply for some of these breadcrumbs if they do so through an European-registered NGO. The Auction Floor event was held by the EC's European Aid agency and put forward 86 potential projects for the consideration of other donors, while the dreadful announcement for the NGOs working on Somalia was made in Nairobi, where the EU's embassy-like Somalia mission resides with an exorbitant own yearly budget for office and staff - far away from Somalia.

The 14th meeting of the International Contact Group (ICG) on Somalia was held under the chairmanship of the UN Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, 26 – 27 February, at the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels to discuss the situation in Somalia. The meeting was attended by the Somali Foreign Minister representing Somalia as a member and the proceedings stated:

The ICG welcomes the progress made since its meeting in New York in December 2008, specifically the creation of an enlarged and more inclusive Parliament, the extension of the transitional period, the election of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as the President and the appointment of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. The ICG acknowledges and supports this new Somali-owned and led peace and reconciliation process.

The ICG is pleased with the continued cooperation in support of this process among all partners. It reiterates its willingness to work closely with the new Somali Government. It also welcomes the fact that the Somali transitional institutions invite all Somali stakeholders from inside and outside Somalia to join the reconciliation process.

The ICG particularly welcomes the relocation of the Government and Parliamentarians to Mogadishu and their commitment to continuing the Djibouti Peace Process. The ICG sees this as an important step towards a functioning administration within Somalia. The ICG welcomes the pledges made to provide continued financial support to the Djibouti Process and to support key transitional institutions.

The ICG underlines the urgent need to provide tangible and coordinated support to address the agreed linked priorities of political, security, recovery, human rights and institution building issues for the next 100 days and beyond, not least to show clear, tangible benefits to the Somali people and to protect the political and financial investment already made by the international community. The ICG recognizes the importance of demonstrating progress on key tasks.

The ICG welcomes the commitment made by the Transitional Government of Somalia to introduce effective and accountable governance based on the outlined proposals presented at the meeting.

The ICG recognizes the need to consolidate and support the new Transitional Government to enable it to deliver minimum security, employment, and basic services.

The ICG recognizes the need for immediate support for the security sector in line with the Security Sector Framework, and welcomes funding pledged, in particular new and renewed support to AMISOM, the Somali Joint Security Force and the Somali Police Service. The ICG welcomes the commitment of UNDP to continue to act as the implementing agency in the development of an accountable civilian police force with a target of 10,000 civilian police to be achieved by the second quarter of 2010. The ICG recognises however that further funding will be required to follow on from these initial pledges in order to ensure sustainability of the process.

The ICG condemns in the strongest terms the recent attacks on AMISOM in which 12 Burundian peacekeepers were killed and 17 wounded as well as many civilians. It appreciates the continued commitment of AMISOM and its troop contributing countries performing under extremely difficult conditions and calls on all Somali parties to support those working to bring peace and stability to the country.

The ICG calls on all partners to work together to support and strengthen AMISOM. It took note of the establishment of a donor Trust Fund managed by the UN´s Department of Field Support Services as a mechanism to channel donations to AMISOM.

The ICG also emphasizes the need to establish mechanisms to address past atrocities by Somalis against Somalis as part of the Djibouti Peace Process. It notes that consultations on justice and reconciliation and on ending impunity are already underway.

The ICG supports the link between political, security and recovery programmes as mutually reinforcing pillars of the strategy that are vital in this new phase for the continuation of the process. The ICG recognizes the important role that the Diaspora can play in the positive development of Somalia and expresses concern about certain elements of the Diaspora that support spoilers to the peace process.

The ICG welcomes commitments to urgently support quick recovery initiatives, such as job creation, delivery of social services and livelihood activities which would have an immediate impact on the well being of Somalis, the security environment and future stability of Somalia through additional resources.

The ICG welcomes the undertaking by the Chair to provide regular updates to its members relating to six-month action plans developed in partnership with the Somali Transitional Government. ICG members agree to respond to these priorities as appropriate and in a timely manner.

The ICG thanks the European Commission for hosting the meeting. The Chair and former Co-Chairs agree to formulate plans for the next ICG meeting and a wider conference and revert to members.

Present were: African Union, European Commission, European Union Council Secretariat, Presidency of European Union (Czech Republic), IGAD, League of Arab States, Organization of Islamic Conference, United Nations, World Bank, Canada, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Yemen.

The international contact group to combat piracy held its second meeting on Tuesday 17th March in Egypt under Assistant Foreign Minister Wafaa Basim with the participation of 28 countries as well as six regional and international organizations. The Egyptian diplomat said discussions focused on means to face the piracy phenomenon in the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and off Somalia's coasts. She said the Cairo meeting will come up with a plan of action prepared by groups entrusted with certain directives to fight piracy and exchange data on this phenomenon.

China has tested Barack Obama early in his presidency, with a flotilla of naval vessels surrounding and harassing a US spy ship in the South China Sea. The incident is likely to be high on the agenda when China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visits Washington later this week, and will come up when Mr. Obama meets his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao at G20 talks in London next month. The scene of the confrontation was not far from where a US spy-plane collided with a Chinese jet fighter eight years ago, soon after George W. Bush became president. The Chinese pilot was killed, the US plane made an emergency landing on China's Hainan island, and China released the 24 crew after Washington issued an apology. The latest incident comes as China is rapidly upgrading its blue-water naval fleet, whose capacity has recently been extended with the deployment of two destroyers and a supply ship to patrol the pirate-infested waters off Somalia. The US ship involved, the Impeccable, is one of five ocean surveillance vessels with the Seventh Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan.

Training and equipping African militaries in counterterrorism may have unintended consequences. AFRICOM should learn from the British who are embroiled in allegations of training an elite company of Kenyan soldiers accused of torture and rape. The British Operation Monogram trained an elite unit "20 Para" to stop extremists from crossing Kenya's border with Somalia. In March, the Kenyan government decided to move the unit to Mt. Elgon where an insurgency escalated two years ago. Last week, UN special envoy Philip Alston accused Kenya's security forces of extrajudicial killings and called on the attorney general and the police commissioner to resign. Kenya has emphatically denied the claims. Human Rights Watch is calling on Britain to stop training Kenya's security forces. Britain is now reportedly reviewing its counterinsurgency program. Its Operation Monogram also funds counterinsurgency programs in Yemen, Ethiopia, and Morocco, all governments that have been accused of using torture and excessive force.

Kenya army denies Sudan link claims. The Kenyan military on Monday denied reports that some of the tanks off-loaded from MV FAINA that were spotted in Kapenguria, were headed for Southern Sudan, Capital FM reported. Military Spokesman Bogita Ongeri told Capital News that three of the tanks seen there were headed for a battalion exercise in the North Rift and not Southern Sudan as alleged. Residents in the North Rift region and other numerous sources had reported seeing the controversial tanks aboard trains and suggested that they were headed for the neighbouring country. "There are only three tanks and they are headed for a battalion exercise in the North Rift. Not Southern Sudan. Those are rumours", he told Capital News on telephone. Mr. Ongeri said the tanks purchased from the Ukraine are safely secured in the country and insisted that they belong to the Kenyan military. "I have always told you this is our arsenal, it is going nowhere because it is meant to be used by our own military," he said.

The tanks bearing Kenya Army registration numbers were ferried aboard trains from Nairobi last week and arrived in Kapenguria on Monday. There have been reports that the military planned to ferry the tanks aboard trains to Kapenguria, from where they would be collected by Southern Sudan forces. They are part of the 33 Russian tanks imported by the Kenyan military last year and only delivered in the country in February after a four-month hijacking ordeal in Somali waters. The controversial T-72 tanks, rocket launchers and small arms came to the limelight when MV FAINA, a ship that was ferrying them was seized by Somali pirates on September 25, 2008. Some diplomats and maritime officials had suggested that they were owned by the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS). Earlier the Kenyan military had also denied claims that the Southern Sudan president was in the country to inspect the military cargo that was aboard the Ukrainian vessel MV FAINA, owned by an Israeli. Chief of the General Staff Jeremiah Kianga expressed dismay that there was still speculation that the equipment does not belong to the Kenyan military. Speaking at a consultation forum between the media and the armed forces at the army headquarters, General Kianga invited the media for any necessary clarification on military issues.

The Kenyan government said on Tuesday it plans to demarcate and survey all its international boundaries to avoid future conflicts with neighboring countries. Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula told a news conference in Nairobi that the boundaries will be marked to beat an African Union 2010 deadline for countries in the continent to do so. "In 2004, the AU Commission directed African countries to demarcate their boundaries to avoid future disputes over boundaries. We will now embark on the work", the minister told journalists in Nairobi. His remarks came after Ugandan troops started withdrawing from the disputed Migingo Island located in Lake Victoria which Uganda and Kenya are claiming.

The two countries are embroiled in a tussle over the ownership of the island. Last month Uganda deployed troops to the island and hoisted its flag. Kenyan fishermen have been under constant harassment by the Ugandan soldiers and forced to pay fishing taxes. However, a meeting between Kenyan and Uganda officials in Kampala last week agreed that Uganda will withdraw its troops and a survey and demarcation of the island will be done in the next two months. Wetangula said that he had received a call from the Ugandan government on early Tuesday, saying that the country has started withdrawing their troops by Tuesday and the exercise will come to a close at the end of the week. "All forces have been given instructions to start withdrawing in pursuance of the agreement", he said. The minister added that fishermen from both countries will be without any interference till the matter is resolved. Wetangula noted that it is under the same arrangement that has seen Nigeria and Cameroon, Namibia and Botswana and Eritrea and Ethiopia iron out their border rows.

Wetangula said the East African nation had only demarcated and surveyed its boundary with Ethiopia and was yet to do so with Tanzania, Uganda, Somalia, Sudan and at the Indian Ocean. The instruments of survey and maps are to be deposited with the AU by 2010 and be later forwarded to the United Nations to forestall future conflicts on boundaries. According to the AU directive, the African countries are supposed to conduct joint surveys for the boundaries to be as they were in 1964 when the first Organization of African Unity meeting was held in Addis Ababa. The surveys should also be as was in 2002 when the African Union was created. African countries are supposed to put proper beacons along their boundaries. "It is now up to the Ministry of Lands to execute the survey of the 937 km long boundary", he said. The minister said historical documents including a 1926 one on Kenya/ Uganda boundary, the 1963 Kenyan constitution and a 1995 Ugandan one are to be used in the survey and demarcation.

However, Kenya's most northern lands - bordering Sudan - are said to be the most tricky area, since the so called Ilemi Triangle - administered by Kenya but claimed by Sudan - is said to have been eyed by some big-wigs from the time of former president Moi. A question as to whether there has been a secret agreement between Kenya and Sudan to allow Kenya to administer this territory, in return for support in the Sudanese Civil War is not clearly answered. Sudan´s technical border committee has delayed release of its report. "These delays will inevitably affect election preparations and implementation of other key benchmarks of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement", the UN Secretary-General said in his most recent report on Sudan.Since the International Criminal Court indicted Omar al-Bashir on war crimes charges, the Sudanese president has become ever more defiant. Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia's prime minister, said the court's decision risked creating an "arc of instability" round Ethiopia, from Somalia to its south and east, hostile Eritrea to the north and Sudan to the west. With Khartoum boxed into a corner and its rebel opponents threatening fresh offensives, prospects for a negotiated solution slim. Kenya and Somalia will have to sort out issues as well ranging from the oppressed pre-independence referendum concerning the North-Eastern Province (ex Northern Frontier District) to an issue over claims concerning the seabed area of the continental shelf beyond the 200nm EEZ.

There is no limit to what a person can do or how far one can go to help - if one doesn't mind who gets the credit !

For families of presently captive seafarers and in order to console their worries, Ecoterra Intl. can make contacts with professional seafarers, who had been abducted in Somalia, as well as of a Captain of a sea-jacked and released ship, who agreed to be addressed "with questions, and we will try and answer truthfully".


Picture: The 4,500-ton South Korean warship Munmu the Great, a destroyer with a crew of 300, is expected to reach the Horn of Africa region in about three weeks after departing from the Jinhae naval base in South Gyeongsang Province last Friday. From:

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