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Somali pirates move 3 hijacked vessels, 40 captive mariners

By Adriana Stuijt     Apr 13, 2009 in Business
Pirates have taken a hijacked Italian tugboat and two Egyptian ships with 40 captured mariners on board, close to the Las Qoray village, located on the faultline with disputed Puntland and Somaliland. The pirates fear reprisal attacks from rival gangs.
Pirates told a Kenyan piracy-monitoring group that they fear reprisal attacks against their 40 foreign mariner-captives by rival Somali warlords after the recent assaults on hijacked boats by French, US and Chinese forces. They fear that their rivals and also the 'Somali forces' who are reportedly hunting them, might target the tugboat and the two Egyptian ships. The Somalian warlords have vowed revenge attacks, also against Americans and French military forces. see
Italians and Somalians are relatives...
However, the expert of the Kenyan-based maritime group who told the story to Reuters news agency, also commented that there wasn't much danger of reprisals by Somalian warlords in the former Italian colony:
"The pirates know Somalis and Italians are relatives," said Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme. see "The information we had (on Sunday) was that the crews were in 'good condition'."
A local Somaliland commander, Mohammed Salah Dubeys, reportedly told Mwangura that the Italian ship and two Egyptian vessels were taken to near the fishing village of Las Qoray late on Sunday.
"Three ships including the Italian tugboat arrived 16km from Las Qoray. We know that they are floating in the area. They hold 16 crew from the tugboat and 24 others from two Egyptian ships," said Dubeys. "What we can do is very little but we do inform the authorities," he also told Reuters by telephone.
The tugboat, carrying 10 Italians, five Romanians and a Croatian, was seized on Saturday in the Horn of Africa. It was not known when the Egyptian vessels were first captured.
17 vessels and 154 mariners held hostage
From March 31 2009, a total of 17 vessels were held captive pending negotiations between owners and hijackers. Today there are nine vessels and 153 crew held hostage by pirate gangs, reports the ICC.
see
A large variety of foreign navies are now patrolling the entire east-African coastline from the Golf of Aden, the Horn of Africa, the Somalian and Ethiopian coastlines all the way to Kenya, where piracy has also been reported rearing its ugly head of late.
Pirates usually try to take their captive mariners close to shore in their speedboats to evade capture from the much more cumbersome navy ships - and to be close to their colleagues in crime.
Fault-line of disputed Puntland and Somaliland
Las Qoray lies right on the fault-line of a contested area of semi-autonomous Puntland region and breakaway Somaliland, whose warlords have fought over disputed regions in the past. Somaliland has offered the use of its ports to foreign navies fighting the warlords. see
41 attacks in 2009 - only 6 successful...
The upswing in piracy off eastern Somalia reported last month by the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has continued into April with a spate of attacks that threaten East African trade.
The latest attack was early on 8 April 2009 against the rescued US ship Maersk Alabama , some 550 km off the Somalia coastline.
Piracy now spilling over into Sudan, Kenya:
The ICC warns that this was the second container ship reported hijacked off Somalia in less than a week: a German-flagged and owned boxship was captured on 5 April. There have been 25 attacks on vessels off the East Coast Somalia, resulting in seven hijackings thus far this year – all of them since 1 March. The ICC warns that 'this surge marks the return of a high volume of pirate activity in the Indian Ocean.'
"Stay at least 600 nautical miles from coastline":
Since the beginning of April, the PRC has confirmed five attacks, with three vessels hijacked and some 74 crew taken hostage. International Maritime Bureau director Pottengal Mukundan commented: “This recent surge of activity is worrying for a number of reasons, principally because attacks have taken place many hundreds of miles off the country’s coastline.
"The problem of Somali piracy has now spilled over to neighbouring countries, threatening trade routes into their ports. These recent attacks have shown that the pirate gangs are able to successfully operate far out to sea using motherships.”
He continued: “Our advice, in line with the EU-led Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa (MSCHOA), is for all vessels not calling at East African ports to try and stay at least 600 nm from the coastline. We may have to review our advice in the light of the recent attacks.”
Last year saw a noticeable escalation in piracy focussed around the Gulf of Aden, they warned. "The international community responded, and the area is now patrolled by a Task Force made up of numerous foreign navies. The initiative has resulted in a reduction in successful attacks in the region, with only six hijackings resulting from 41 attempted attacks so far in 2009.
"Whilst the number of attempted attacks has not significantly declined, the presence and intervention of the foreign navies has helped to prevent the vessels being hijacked.The IMB advises that Masters must maintain strict 24-hour piracy watches and be especially wary of any approaching small craft.
"The Bureau further urges ships to report their presence and intended itinerary to the Horn of Africa coalition taskforce, and in the Indian Ocean to observe a Ship Security Level appropriate to the level of pirate attacks reported in the region.
It also urges that Masters report all actual or attempted attacks, as well as any suspicious vessel movements, to the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre.
Such information could provide vital intelligence for other Masters navigating in the area, the PRC says, and has resulted in attacks being averted. The PRC can be contacted 24 hours a day, seven days a week on +603 2031 0014, or emailed on imbkl@icc-ccs.org see
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