Wednesday, February 11, 2009

US Navy detains 7 suspected pirates, Dutch authorities prepare to prosecute 5 others and Puntland forces raid a pirate haven

Been a busy day around the Horn of Africa.

Word out of the Gulf of Aden this afternoon is that American naval forces apprehended seven suspected pirates in the wake of a botched attempt to board the merchant vessel MV Polaris. Voice of America reports that a team from the USS Vella Gulf, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser assigned to CTF151, managed to intercept the small boat the attackers were in and detain the Somalis aboard. The suspects are to be transferred shortly to the USNS Lewis And Clark; where they will be taken afterward remains unclear. This marks the first instance in which the new combined task force has successfully apprehended suspected pirates.

USS Vela Gulf (USN photo)

Also today, authorities in Rotterdam are preparing to arraign five Somalis that the Dutch navy captured on January 2 after another unsuccessful hijacking attempt by pirates. As the BBC says in its report, the "accused face up to nine years in jail if found guilty. The alleged leader of the group could face a 12-year sentence if convicted." Until their recent arrival in the Netherlands, the suspects had been detained in Bahrain.

Meanwhile in Somalia itself, there are signs that at least some elements of the populace are ready to reassert law and order. According to local media outlet Garowe Online, authorities in the administrative capital of Puntland State, Garowe, carried out the new government's first capital punishment case when they executed a man on Monday. Abdi-Dahir Abdullahi was "convicted of killing two men on Feb. 2, including a well-known pirate." (Puntland is the semi-autonomous northeastern part of Somalia).

Garowe Online also reports that the newly elected president of the Puntland regional administration, Dr. Abdirahman Mohamed "Farole" ordered local police to raid a village - Marero - known to be a haven for pirates and human smugglers. The report says that Puntland forces "stormed the site and a group of suspected pirates fled away on a speedboat", adding that they managed to capture "two speedboats, seven motors that power boats, barrels of fuel, food, ladders and ropes." President Farole is quoted as saying that the raid was a first step in combating criminals operating from the Puntland coast. "My government will fight pirates and human smugglers, and we have a plan to defeat them," President Farole vowed at a press conference after the raid.

Puntland President Farole at Marero with security forces
(Garowe Online photo)

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