Monday, January 26, 2009

Infighting kills Somali pirates

Kenyan piracy expert Andrew Mwangura sends word of a bizarre incident last weekend in which a number of Somali pirates may have died as a result of internal feuding. He tells me that he's received reports that indicate four Somalis lost their lives last Saturday, following a heavy exchange of gunfire aboard the Panamanian-flagged tug MT Yenagoa Ocean.

Mwangura says that the tug had been moved from Hawo to Caluula at the very Horn of Africa in preparation to receive a ransom, but it was reported that their negotiator caused a conflict among the captors and the deadly fight ensued. None of the nine Nigerian crew was hurt in the fight.

MT Yenagoa Ocean in her former incarnation as MT Nico Shindagha

This marks another chapter in the sad plight of the Yenagoa Ocean and her Nigerian crew. At the time they were seized, the crew was en route to Nigeria from Dubai when a member of the crew required medical assistance. According to the Somali outlet, the tug's captain received permission to enter the port of Mogadishu. After berthing, pirates stormed the ship and demanded a reported $1 million ransom from her owners.

Currently, the Yenagoa Ocean holds the dubious title of being held by Somali pirates for the longest time, having been hijacked back on August 4, 2008. As well, a few weeks later the ONI reported that the vessel was used as a mothership by pirates in order to stage an unsuccessful attack on a bulk carrier. Their report from September 10 of last year says, in part, that the bulker was in the Gulf of Aden, about 68nm southeast of Al Mukalla, Yemen, when her master said shots were fired at the bridge from other vessels. He requested immediate assistance from coalition forces and an aircraft soon arrived on scene, scaring off the pirates in who were in speedboats and "the piracy tug boat (possibly the mother-ship)". The ONI note goes on to say that "reported description confirms that the pirate vessel being used is the Yenagoa Ocean."

Andrew Mwangura says that after being hijacked, "The crew and vessel were abandoned by the Nigerian owner for long periods and only recently the Nigerian embassy in Nairobi stepped in after having been alerted by a humanitarian organization, who had received an appeal from the master of the vessel."

Over five months in captivity and still no end to these mariners' plight.

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