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Somali Pirates Operate Their Own World Wide Network
What will it take to stop the Somali pirates with their world wide information gathering network?
By: Lyn Thomas
"The huge Somali world-wide dispersion (200,000 living in Canada alone), have gravitated to piracy as they would to any other large business enterprise, just as you would buy shares in any syndicate", says Michael Weinstein, a Somalia expert at Purdue University in Indiana. “You get a cut of the ransom when you buy in". Eyl, has become the new world piracy capital, though it is little more than a run down, outback, fishing village in Somali, where scores of hijacked ships are docked. It receives only a small percent of the ransom millions being paid by shipping companies.
Suleyman, one of the pirates said, "We have negotiators, translators and agents in many areas of the world, acting on our behalf". Fronting as money changers and agents, they earn a percentage of the ransom payments. Many are Somali expatriates.
Naples, Piraeus, Mombasa, and Rotterdam are just four places where there are agencies. Spies for the pirates, work in shipping and marine insurance firms in East African, the Gulf and European ports. Information is gleaned from anywhere merchant vessels dock, which are heading for the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. The pirates are kept informed on the number of security guards and weapons that are onboard a particular vessel, as well as the cargo.
Pirate leaders, who are are easily recognizable, use their proxies to negotiate the ransom and terms for releasing hijacked vessels, rather than exposing themselves and their location. These front men also purchase the latest in navigation equipment, communications gear, speed boats, GPS, food, fuel, or any other supplies the pirate community requires.
As Somalia, a bank-failed state, only deals with cash and an informal transfer network, known as the ‘hawala’
The pirates are, however, more and more opting for cash settlements, warning anyone against trying to use false money for the ransom. Earlier this year the pirates asked for money to be delivered to the Gulf. Oddly enough no one would volunteer to carry it.
“We do expect a favourable outcome", said the leader of the group Mohammed Said, as the ultimatum for the ransom payment of $25 million for the MV Sirus Star, the Dubai owned oil tanker, hijacked on Nov 18th, is drawing to a close.
Armed private security agencies from Dubai are now offering their services to protect vulnerable vesels. However in a recent brazen attack on a Liberia-flagged oil and chemical tanker, three men jumped overboard and were fished out of the water by a German helicopter. They were former British soldiers providing security for the MV Buscagalia.
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