Archive for category Somalia

Industry Talk: Bancroft Global’s Bet On Peace In War-Torn Somalia

This was a story that came up on my radar back in April that needed to be put out there. It helps to fill in some of the blanks about this company and what they have been up to in Somalia. I had no idea that they were involved in the construction of a resort in Somalia and here are the details.

International Campus, which he says cost more than $6 million, is now open for business and mostly booked. Beyond the pool and the ocean views, there is a bunker, a trauma hospital and something akin to Mad Max’s version of an auto body shop, where specialized gear heads will fix “the ballistic glass on your armored vehicle,” as Mr. Stock puts it.
He expects the new place to break even next year. The trailer park, he says, is grossing about $2 million a year. When his cement-making business opens up, there is an entire city to patch and restore.

His strategy is pretty simple, and summed up in this statement.

Mr. Stock’s gamble: The security outfit will help guide the country toward peace, turning his investments into big money. “It’s like getting in at the bottom of the stock market,” says Mr. Stock. His unusual war operation is making him into a kind of ultimate gentrifier, a mini mogul of Mogadishu, perhaps.

In the article below, it mentioned that the security component was actually losing money. But because that operation is helping to push the country along towards peace and stability, that it will support the company’s main goal of being situated to make money off of it’s real estate/reconstruction investments there. Everything needed to stand up a country during the reconstruction phase will be a market that BG is positioned for. Very smart, but risky and I hope it pays off for them.

And Bancroft isn’t the only group trying to set up shop in Somalia to support the future reconstruction efforts. Check this one out.

With dwindling war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, other American contractors are moving in, too. A Virginia company, Atlantean, is setting up an airport hotel in the south. Among its board members, according to its website, is former Maj. Gen. William Garrison, who led the mission associated with Black Hawk Down. In the movie version, he was played by Sam Shepard. Maj. Gen. Garrison couldn’t be reached for comment.

My other thought about this deal is that Somalia will be the model for what is going on in Mali. That mission will require logistics and support for the post-conflict reconstruction effort. These folks will need hotels/living areas to support the various missions, and companies like BG will step in to make it happen.  As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, numerous companies will be looking at places like Somalia to fill a need. They will also be watching how this business model works out and take notes.

There will also be plenty of capable folks willing to do this work, and men like Michael Stock will be leading the charge. Pretty cool and we will see how it goes. –Matt


Michael Stock is pursuing an extreme version of that basic investor’s principle: Get in early. He’s just finished building a resort on the coast of war-torn Mogadishu, Somalia. WSJ’s Christopher S. Stewart reports. (Photo: Dominic Nahr/WSJ)

A Bet on Peace for War-Torn Somalia
April 26, 2013
Michael Stock sees things that others don’t. “Imagine this,” he says one recent afternoon, standing on the sunny second-floor deck of his new oceanside hotel in Somalia’s war-battered capital. “There are banana trees where there’s desert now, and there’s this view.”
The banana trees haven’t grown in yet, but International Campus, as he calls the complex, is the closest thing to a Ritz for many miles. A fortified compound sprawled across 11 acres of rocky white beach, it offers 212 rooms including $500-a-night villas, several dining rooms, coffee and snack shops, and a curving slate-colored pool where sun-seekers can loll away Somali afternoons.
“It’s going to be ridiculous!” Mr. Stock said, just weeks before residents began arriving for April’s opening.
A few hours later, the jittery sound of gunfire split the warm February air not far from his new hotel—a reminder that the country is still muddling through a decades-old conflict and that there are still bullets flying, bombs detonating.
Bananas in the Desert
Most Western countries have avoided Somalia, leaving a void to be filled by contractors like Michael Stock’s Bancroft Global Development. He envisions ‘banana trees where there is desert.’
Mr. Stock isn’t just anyone gambling on a far-fetched idea in a conflict zone. In an unusual twist of the war business, the 36-year-old American is deeply involved in the conflict itself. In addition to being a real estate developer, his company also helps train Somalis in modern military techniques.

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Film: The Project, By Shawn Efran And Adam Ciralsky

Now this looks like a cool documentary and it will be interesting to see the reaction to this film? It definitely has an interesting cast of characters that were interviewed for the film or were actual participants. Specifically, the folks from SCS and the good work they did to train and stand up the PMPF. Here is a quote from below.

Cast: Roger Carstens, Erik Prince, Lafras Luitingh, Rudolph van Heerden, Michael Shanklin, Matthew Bryden

What will really be cool is if they were actually able to capture some of the hostage rescue missions that the PMPF performed, with the help of Roelf van Heerden and his men. –Matt


The Project

The scourge of Somali piracy has been devastating the Middle East and North African shipping industries for nearly a decade. As a country with no functioning central government for over twenty years and no military training permitted under UN sanctions, Somalia has been largely powerless to curb the increasingly bold and violent actions of the pirates. Enter the Puntland Maritime Police Force, a secret paramilitary group of mercenary pirate hunters. Initially so undertrained and malnourished that members broke their own legs during marching exercises, the PMPF grows its numbers and hones its tactics under the watchful eye of former U.S. Army Special Forces operative Roger Carstens. It ultimately faces mutiny, death and political infighting in a dangerous quest to pull off the impossible: waging an epic battle on the high seas to rescue dozens of innocent hostages.

Featuring interviews with controversial Blackwater founder Erik Prince and the UN’s arms embargo monitor Matt Bryden, along with shocking firsthand footage from filmmakers embedded within the PMPF, The Project is a gripping, real-life war thriller exposing an unknown, anything-goes battle for control of the seas in one of the most dangerous places on earth.
—Cara Cusumano
Film Information Collapse
2013 | 90 minutes | Documentary Feature
Directed by: Shawn Efran and Adam Ciralsky
Language: English

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Industry Talk: Roelf Van Heerden And Men Lead PMPF Operation To Free MV Iceberg 1 Hostages

This is all types of cool. Basically the PMPF and their South African mentors/trainers rescued the hostages of the MV Iceberg 1 after a two week siege. This is significant, because this rescue/siege was conducted by a private South African force who commanded an assault force they trained, with the blessing of the Puntland government. And they rescued 22 hostages who had been held for over 1000 days, after a 10 day siege. Ross Perot, eat your heart out.

What is interesting about the account below is the tactics involved and how they adapted to the changing situation. And how Rolf van Heerden’s crew was able to finally resolve the siege using some recoilless weapons, minus the weapon sights. lol

“I asked Mohamed Farole if we could get hold of larger weapons or even mortars. I also talked personally to President Farole about the situation and he raised a concern that we might kill or injure the hostages. We did manage to get hold of a Soviet 82 mm B-10 recoilless rifle and a number of rounds and it wasn’t long before we had deployed it on the beach. With no sights available the crew took aim by aligning the weapon and the ship through the open breach and we fired a number of rounds, striking the vessel around the bridge area.
“The pirates on board obviously took fright and contacted the Puntland ambassador in Dubai to inform him that they wished to surrender but that we should stop shooting at them first. We held our fire on two occasions in an effort to give them the opportunity to surrender but, after a number of breakdowns in communication, I had had enough and we resumed the bombardment of the vessel with all available weapons.
“An old United States 106 mm recoilless rifle, unearthed from the rear of a private home, was the next heavy weapon to arrive, together with six rounds provided by the Puntland government. The aiming process was repeated and after two misses the crew found the correct range and four rounds smashed into the ship with resounding explosions, setting the vessel on fire. This effectively changed the pirates’ minds and they indicated that they really wished to surrender and talk.”

If you want a good primer on Roelf, check out his book called Four Ball One Tracer. He was a commanding officer for Executive Outcomes back in the day, and currently he works under the employ of the PMPF.

Now I am not sure if he is still with Sterling Corporate Services, Bancroft Global Development, or hired directly as a member of the PMPF? There was a lot of back and forth about money and the survival of the PMPF, and it is hard to say what the arrangement is now. All though it is obvious that the men of Sterling Corporate Services are still with the force, and they are still operating.

If you remember, SCS lost one of their men in a PMPF operation last year, and that put them on the map. The UN has been trying to shut them down because they are viewed as the competition that is making the UN look bad. lol Funny how the UN could support and oppose such a force, all at the same time?

With that said, there have been several sources that have identified the effectiveness of the SCS trained and mentored PMPF force, and a reduction in piracy could be attributed to their actions.

Building up indigenous ground forces has also helped. What has really thwarted pirate networks is a ground force known as the Puntland Maritime Police Force, according to an expert who has worked on the ground in Somalia. The PMPF is about 400 men, recruited locally and trained to be a professional anti-piracy police force. And it’s worked, says former Green Beret Roger Carstens, who is working on a project about Somalia and the maritime force and has spent much time on the ground there in recent months. “They basically went in and chased the pirates to keep them out,” Carstens told Situation Report. “That kept the pirates out of the pirate towns, where they staged their attacks, and it screwed [their] investors,” he said. But he warns that if support and resources ebb for the ground force, it could falter. That would be a good thing for the pirates.

“If they fail, you could easily see a resurgence of piracy writ large,” Carstens said, emphasizing that the concentration of pirate activity emanates from Puntland, an area of northeastern Somalia that was declared an autonomous state in 1998.

The other thing that I was curious about is who is paying for the PMPF now? I imagine that the UAE is still funding it. or maybe the owners of the Iceberg paid Puntland to conduct this rescue? Who knows and if anyone is familiar with the funding and survival of the PMPF, I am all ears. Either way, good on Roelf and company and good on the PMPF for rescuing these guys. –Matt


PMPF forces conducting operations to free crew of MV Iceberg 1.


Exclusive: South African-led operation frees hostages from Somali pirates
Written by Andrew Hudson
Tuesday, 29 January 2013 This is
In December 2012 the Puntland Maritime Police Force rescued 22 sailors who had been held hostage on board the Panama-registered ship Iceberg 1 for nearly three years – the longest period for any hostages held by Somali pirates. Roelf van Heerden, the South African commander of the ground force, gives an exclusive first-hand account of the operation.
The Iceberg 1, a 4 500 tonne roll on/roll off cargo vessel owned by Dubai-based Azal Shipping, was hijacked just ten nautical miles off Aden, Yemen, on March 29, 2010. She was carrying generators, transformers and fuel tanks and had a crew of 24 from Yemen, India, Ghana, Sudan, Pakistan and the Philippines.
The Iceberg 1 eventually ran aground in September 2011 off Garacad, a small coastal village in the Galmudug region on Somalia’s eastern seaboard. With two hostages dead, a continuing standoff between the owners and the pirates, and an exhausted, sickly crew of hostages, the last months of 2012 held little prospect of an end to the ordeal. That was until the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF), under the command of a team of South Africans, took action.
Roelf van Heerden, who commanded the ground forces, is permanently employed by the PMPF and his main role, together with other South Africans, is to train the PMPF and deploy the police force. Van Heerden now takes up the story:
“On 28 October 2012 Mohamed Farole, son of Puntland’s President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, called me at the headquarters of the PMPF in Bossaso and briefed me about the Iceberg. Mohamed, who is the director of the PMPF, also asked me to carefully assess whether the PMPF could undertake an operation aimed at freeing the hostages.
“All previous attempts to resolve the hijacking, including offers of a ransom, had failed due to disagreements between the parties on the ransom amount, the means and the location of the ransom transfer. The ship’s crew were also reportedly in a sorry physical and mental state. The first fatality, a Yemeni, was said to have committed suicide in October 2010 after continuous harassment by the pirates. The other fatality amongst the hostages was the first officer, Dhiraj Kumar Tiwari, who had been severely tortured by the pirates and had not been seen since September 2011.
“The vessel had also run out of fuel and the seasonal high winds had caused both the ship’s anchors to break loose allowing the vessel to drift helplessly onto the rocks. The Iceberg’s hull had ruptured and the lower hold containing eighteen very large generators in 12-metre containers had flooded.

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Funny Stuff: Party Seems Over For Somali Pirates–Prostitutes Lament

There they found pirates who once owned vast villas living in darkened, unfurnished rooms, hiding from their creditors.
Prostitute Faduma Ali longs for the days when her pirate customers had money. As she smoked a hookah in a hot, airless room in Galkayo last week, she sneered as she answered a phone call from a former customer seeking some action on credit.
“Those days are over. Can you pay me $1,000?” she asked. That’s what she once got for a night’s work. “If not, goodbye and leave me alone.”
“Money,” she groaned as she hung up.

Too funny. If you want to know the health of an illicit industry like piracy, then turn to the prostitutes as a way of gauging that. lol

I also love that Faduma Ali pictured below is a prostitute, but still wears what looks like the niqab or veil. I really don’t know how she is viewed upon by Islamic scholars or other muslims there in the city she lives in, and I am surprised the extremists haven’t killed her or made an example of her yet?

But back to the big point here. This is just more proof that the current strategy of getting armed guards on boats–and I mean all vessels going through GOA–is the right path. Congratulations to all involved with the effort, to include the navies of the world and the private armed guards on boats.

On that note, just because the Somali pirate industry is suffering, does not mean that they are out of the picture or that other pirates from around the world won’t do their thing. For example, Nigerian pirates seem to be really upping their game and increasing their use of violence. The truly desperate and dangerous pirates are out there, and they are committing atrocity in order to achieve their goals. It is these wolves, that continue to hunt and seek weakness, that we need to be on guard for.

I would hate to see armed guards on boats get over taken by better armed and highly determined pirates….. But the realist in me just assumes that it will happen, and all we can to is to continue to press for the entire industry stay one step ahead. Both in planning/intelligence and in optimum weapons for that voyage. –Matt


$1000 a night no more: Prostitute Faduma Ali, who longs for the days when her pirate customers had money, chews the stimulant khat and smokes a cigarette at a house in the once-bustling pirate town of Galkayo, Somalia. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh) Source: AP

AP IMPACT: Party seems over for Somali pirates
The empty whiskey bottles and overturned, sand-filled skiffs littering this once-bustling shoreline are signs the heyday of Somali piracy may be over. Most of the prostitutes are gone and the luxury cars repossessed. Pirates while away their hours playing cards or catching lobsters.
“There’s nothing to do here these days,” said Hassan Abdi, a high school graduate who taught English in a private school before turning to piracy in 2009. “The hopes for a revitalized market are not high.”
Armed guards aboard cargo ships and an international naval armada that carries out onshore raids have put a huge dent in piracy and might even be ending the scourge.
While experts say it’s too early to declare victory, the numbers are startling: In 2010, pirates seized 47 vessels. This year they’ve taken five.
For a look at the reality behind those numbers, an Associated Press team from the capital, Mogadishu, traveled to the pirate havens of Galkayo and Hobyo, a coastal town considered too dangerous for Western reporters since the kidnappers have turned to land-based abductions over the last year.
There they found pirates who once owned vast villas living in darkened, unfurnished rooms, hiding from their creditors.
Prostitute Faduma Ali longs for the days when her pirate customers had money. As she smoked a hookah in a hot, airless room in Galkayo last week, she sneered as she answered a phone call from a former customer seeking some action on credit.

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Publications: Stability Operations Magazine, September-October 2012

Another great issue of SO. I liked the discussion about AMISOM and their mission in Somalia. There was even a mention of Bancroft Global Development (BGD).

Although what was missing was how instrumental contractors have been to the AMISOM mission. Meaning, contractors are there training and providing logistics to these guys for the fight against Al Shabbab, and you don’t hear much about that contribution.

The other part of the story is that the UN gets very questionable troops from their member nations. Often times, these troops are poorly funded, trained and equipped, and yet they are tasked with conducting very complex operations. The mission in Somalia is not peace keeping either–it is war fighting. So the skills that AMISOM is gaining by working with companies like BGD, are essential to survival and winning on the battlefield. That is what is interesting to me about AMISOM and the recent gains in Somalia. –Matt


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Maritime Security: Piracy Off Africa Has Plunged, With A ‘Great Deal Of Credit’ Towards Armed Guards

The decrease in attacks appears to be a result of increased security measures taken by commercial vessels and of sustained antipiracy patrols by the navies of more than a dozen nations, including the United States.
Admiral Fox said the shipping industry “can take a great deal of credit” for the trend. More commercial vessels are carrying “embarked security teams” of armed guards, he said, and no vessel with such a team on board has been hijacked.

Excellent job to all security teams out there for producing these results. It is proof that ‘armed guards on boats’ is a crucial element of the overall strategy of countering piracy. Now hopefully every company and team out there doesn’t drop their guard, and they only continue to improve upon their operations and effectiveness.

That, and the industry must pay close attention to the changing tactics of the pirates. Off the coast of Nigeria, pirates seem to be more willing to take the chance of a gun fight with security forces in order to accomplish the task of taking a boat or kidnapping folks. The fear here is that other pirate groups will learn from these types of assaults and attempt the same.

Pirate action groups will also experiment and game the armed security systems of vessels. It will either be the  application of lethal surprise, overwhelming fire power, or the use of well coordinated/organized swarms. All of these tactics will be mixed together and combined by hungry and determined criminals willing to take that risk and try new methods. ‘Risk takers’ in that part of the world are not in short supply, and there is no telling how many smart and innovative criminal leaders/entrepreneurs there are. But they are out there, and we must stay one step ahead of them. –Matt 


U.S. Reports That Piracy Off Africa Has Plunged
August 28, 2012
Acts of piracy in the treacherous waters around the Horn of Africa have fallen sharply in 2012, according to statistics released by the United States Navy. The Navy credits aggressive patrolling by international forces and increased vigilance by the commercial shipping industry for the decrease.
Data released by the Navy last week showed 46 pirate attacks in the area this year, compared with 222 in all of last year and 239 in 2010. Nine of the piracy attempts this year have been successful, according to the data, compared with 34 successful attacks in all of 2011 and 68 in 2010.
Even so, senior Navy officers have been careful not to declare victory.
“The pirates are very adaptable, and they are very flexible,” said Vice Adm. Mark I. Fox, the Navy’s deputy chief for operations, plans and strategy. “We are watching carefully.”

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