Posts Tagged Ukraine

News: Update-Somali Pirates Say They Will Fight Commando Raid

 

 The Ukrainian ship MV Faina off the coast of Somalia.

Somali pirates say they will fight commando raid

By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN 

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Somali pirates on a hijacked cargo ship holding battle tanks and hostages said Thursday that they were ready to battle any commando-style rescue attempt.

The warning came a day after the Somali government gave foreign powers a blank check for using force against the pirates, while U.S. warships continued to circle nearby and a Russian frigate headed toward the standoff.

“Anyone who tries to attack us or deceive us will face bad repercussions,” the pirates’ spokesman, Sugule Ali, told The Associated Press by satellite telephone from the Ukrainian ship MV Faina.

Ali sounded calm and relaxed despite being surrounded by a half dozen U.S. Navy vessels and buzzed by American helicopters.

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News: Somali Pirates Seize Ukraine Ship Carrying Tanks

     I was contemplating on wether or not to classify this as Funny Stuff or Piracy or News.  These knuckleheads captured a ship with T-72’s and small arms on board, and now they have US and Russian naval ships after them.  The pirates even have a ‘pirate spokesman’ to negotiate– that is just too funny.  

     But really, how embarassing is this, to have a couple guys with AK 47’s hijack a ship filled with this kind of military equipment?  Maybe they should have taken a Dishka off one of those tanks, and put it on the bow or something? LOL  –Head Jundi

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Somali Pirates Seize Ukraine Ship Carrying Tanks

 

By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN

Published: September 26, 2008

 

NAIROBI, Kenya — For a moment, the pirates might have thought that they had really struck gold — Somalia-style.

The gun-toting, seafaring thieves, who routinely pounce on cargo ships bobbing along on the Indian Ocean, suddenly found themselves in command of a vessel crammed with $30 million worth of grenade launchers, piles of ammunition, even battle tanks.

But this time, they might have gotten far more than they bargained for. Unlike so many other hijackings off the coast of Somalia that have gone virtually unnoticed — and unpunished — the attack Thursday evening on the Faina, a Ukrainian vessel bringing military equipment to Kenya, has provoked the wrath of two of the most powerful militaries on the planet.

The United States Navy was in hot pursuit of the ship on Friday. And the Russians were not far behind.

“This is really getting out of control,” said Mohammed Osman, a Somali government official in Kenya. “You see how many countries are involved now? These pirates aren’t going to get away with this.”

Somalia’s 1,880-mile coastline is crawling with pirates, a serious problem given that so much of the country is dependent on emergency food aid, which comes mostly by ship. Thieves seem to strike with increasing impunity, grabbing everything from sailing yachts to oil tankers. They then usually demand millions of dollars in ransom for the ships and their crews.

And people usually pay — which Somali and Western officials say is fueling the problem. This year is one of the worst on record, with more than 50 ships attacked, 25 hijacked and at least 14 currently being held by pirates. The waters off Somalia are now considered the most dangerous in the world.

As for the Faina, it may have looked liked the kind of slow-moving, easy prey that pirates have hit time and time again. But its booty was not the kind that can be easily pawned off at port.

Each tank weighs more than 80,000 pounds. The pirates would need special training, not to mention special equipment, to offload them — assuming, of course, that they could make it to port safely with the Navy on their tail.

The pirates are often former fishermen who have turned to the more lucrative work of plying the seas with binoculars and rocket-propelled grenades. They travel in light speedboats, deployed from a mother ship far out at sea, and they have attacked ships as far as 300 miles from shore. Pirates even tried to attack an American naval supply ship earlier this week. The navy ship fired warning shots at them. The pirates sped away.

“These pirates are getting bolder ever day,” said Andrew Mwangura, the program coordinator of the Seafarers’ Assistance Program in Kenya, whose organization tracks pirate attacks.

Somali officials say the pirates are growing in numbers, with more than 1,000 gunmen at their disposal, and they have evolved into a sophisticated organized crime ring with their headquarters along the rocky shores of northern Somalia. There is even a pirate spokesman (who could not be reached for comment on Friday.)

One official close to the Somali government described the pirates as an oceanic “mafia” and said they had netted millions of dollars, which they use to buy fancy cars and big houses.

“Paying the ransoms is just making this worse,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Mr. Mohammed, the Somali official in Kenya, said “this is not a Somali problem. This is an international problem. Shipping across this entire region is imperiled by this.”

European countries and the United States have tried to crack down on piracy, with different navies patrolling the waters and escorting United Nations-chartered ships bringing much needed food to Somalia. Twice this year, French commandos have stormed hijacked ships and freed French yachts.

On Friday, Kenyan and Western officials said that an American warship was steaming toward the hijacked ship to intercept it, and the Russian Navy announced that it too was sending a warship, named the Dauntless. It could lead to a showdown with the pirates, and with that many hostages aboard a floating ammunition dump, things could get complicated.

The Kenyan government, one of America’s closest allies in Africa, had purchased around $30 million of arms from Ukraine.

“This is a big loss for us,” said Alfred Mutua, a spokesman for the Kenyan government.

The ship, which is registered in Belize, was supposed to pull into Kenya’s Mombasa port on Monday morning. But on Thursday around 5 p.m., when the Faina was about 200 miles off shore, it was surrounded by three speedboats, according to the Interfax news service. Communication was suddenly cut off. It was a typical pirate tactic.

According to the Ukrainian foreign ministry’s Website, there were 21 people aboard, including 17 Ukrainians, three Russians and a Latvian. An official at the Mombasa port said the ship, was carrying 2,320 tons of “project cargo,” a term that is usually used to describe heavy machinery.

But according to diplomats and the Russian Interfax news agency, the cargo was 33 T-72 refurbished tanks, “quite a significant amount of ammunition” and grenade launchers. The supplier was a state-owned Ukrainian company. Ukrainian and Kenyan officials emphasized that the arms deal was perfectly legal.

Somalia’s pirates usually dock their ships in isolated coves, ferrying people and cargo back and forth in dinghies, which are not exactly ideal for transporting 80,000-pound, solid-steel tanks.

“ If there are tanks on board,” said one Western diplomat in Kenya, “I don’t think there’s a chance in hell they can get them unloaded.”

More worrisome, he said, was the prospect of the small arms, like the grenade launchers, getting funneled to insurgents battling the Somali transitional government.

In the past week, insurgents linked to Somalia’s ousted Islamist movement have waged withering attacks on government forces in the capital, Mogadishu. Dozens of civilians have been cut down in the crossfire, and thousands are fleeing the bullet-pocked city once again.

Somalia has been enmeshed in chaos for 17 years, since the central government collapsed and clan warlords carved the country into fiefdoms. The fighting, however, has intensified since December 2006, when Ethiopian troops invaded the country and overthrew a grassroots Islamist movement that controlled much of Somalia.

Ethiopian and American officials said the Islamists were sheltering Al Qaeda terrorists, and the American military helped the Ethiopians hunt down Islamist leaders.

The United Nations World Food Program has said that the conflict and recent drought have pushed millions of Somalis to the edge of famine. More than 3 million people, nearly half the population, need emergency food to survive. Pirates have threatened the pipeline of food into the country because of the constant hijackings on the high seas.

Michael Schwirtz contributed reporting from Moscow, and a Somali journalist from Mogadishu, Somalia.

 

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