One child pirate sobs in New York court – other pirate suspects appear in Kenya court without proper clothing

ABC news reported a couple of days ago that “The surviving Somali pirate suspect from the attack on the U.S. flagged merchant ship Maersk Alabama sobbed in a Manhattan courtroom today where a judge determined that he will be tried as an adult. There is still some confusion over the actual age of Abdulwali Muse, whose mother claims he is 16 years old, but whom the government believes to be older”.

Yes, he might be 17.

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Somalia pirates – is this the aftermath?

“As they bobbed in the ocean near the USS Bainbridge, a Navy destroyer sent to rescue Phillips, the teenage pirates were experiencing withdrawal after days without khat, a mildly narcotic leaf chewed in for its stimulant effects” — from a report in the Washington Post, here.

Then, three hijackers were killed, and, the Washington Post said, “The Justice Department is deciding where to send the fourth pirate for trial”. [He had earlier sought treatment aboard the nearby USS Bainbridge for a wounded hand, meaning that he had effectively surrendered.]

In the same article, the Washington Post reported that “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates aid the four pirates involved in taking Phillips hostage were 17 to 19 years old — “untrained teenagers with heavy weapons.”

According to this article, U.S. President Barack Obama was briefed “as many as five times a day”.

A senior military official who spoke to the Washington Post on condition of anonymity reportedly said:  “It was pretty remarkable that these snipers nailed these guys, … You think of rough seas, 75, 80 feet away, and under darkness, and they got them. Three pirates, three rounds, three dead bodies.”

But, the Washington Post said, “In Somalia, in the pirate haven of Harardhere, where locals have benefited from millions of dollars in pirate ransom, the military operation seemed like a bewildering display of force against four errant young men. ‘It was wrong to kill those pirates’, said Aisha Gurey, an Arabic teacher. ‘The international community is wrong, and the pirates are wrong. But in this case, the strong one has killed the weak one’.”

AFP reported that Gates “told a group of 30 students and faculty members at the Marine Corps War College in Quantico, Virginia [that] ‘There is no purely military solution to’ piracy in the region … As long as you’ve got this incredible number of poor people and the risks are relatively small, there’s really no way in my view to control it unless you get something on land that begins to change the equation for these kids’.” This AFP report can be read in full here.

Earlier, AP reported that “Analysts are warning that the increasingly brazen piracy and its toll on
shipping companies is going to lead to higher prices for commodities headed to the West. In addition, more than 10 percent of the world’s petroleum supply is shipped past Somalia and into Gulf of Aden, the shortest route between Asia and Europe”. This report can be read in full here.

Despite the successful hostage rescue — or because of it — Somali pirates siezed four more ships and dozens more hostages today.

Where does the Gulf of Aden become the Indian Ocean?

Gulf of Aden - Indian Ocean - AP maè

The next question is: why was USAID moving food aid from Djibouti to Mombasa, Kenya?

Then,,a survey of the reports this morning indicate that, according to at least one report, that the pirates were not only out of fuel for the lifeboat, but also out of ammunition — while the same report (and others) states that Captain Phillips was judged to be in imminent danger because an automatic/rifle was pointed at his back (though the pirates were said to be out of ammo…)  See McClatchy newspapers report here

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Captain Phillips freed by U.S. Navy Seals, 3 Somali pirates killed, one captured — 200 other hostages still being held

U.S. Navy Seals stormed the lifeboat where four Somali pirates were holding Captain Richard Phillips, who offered himself as hostage in exchange for the freedom of the crew of the Maersk Alabama, which was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday last week.

Phillips was reportedly receiving medical care, and resting, after the rescue.
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Advice on what to do if you're taken hostage by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden

PIRATE ATTACK GULF OF ADEN: Advice on Who to Contact and What to Do
Some advice, here, via the Australian national website, on what to do if you’re taken hostage by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden:
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Context and background to the continuing Somali hostage story

With thanks to aletheia kallos/MD
“A government that still doesn’t control all of Mogadishu is dealing the Continental Shelf away
plus
more intimate details of the Sarkozy kill
plus
pirate elders converge on hostage standoff”

and below are some excerpts (not in that exact order):
Continue reading “Context and background to the continuing Somali hostage story”

Ruling the world …

“Once again, it has taken American involvement to get world powers really interested,” said a diplomat who tracks Somalia from Nairobi. “I hope they don’t forget the Filipinos and all the others once this guy is released.” – From a Reuters news story posted here.

As the stand-off continues, AP reported Saturday that “The USS Bainbridge is in sight of the lifeboat; the USS Halyburton is nearby. The Bainbridge uses drones to keep watch on the lifeboat. The Halyburton has helicopters”. This AP story can be read in full here.

And, the “amphibious assault ship USS Boxer” — which the AP is calling the “flag ship for a multination anti-piracy task force” — is due to arrive on the scene soon, as a crisis involving the first American hostage siezed by Somali pirates is in its fourth day.

Amphibious assault ship USS Boxer  - Dec 08 image provided by the Navy of

The AP reported that “defense officials” — who “were not authorized to publicly discuss sensitive ship movements” — said that “The Boxer resembles a small aircraft carrier. It has a crew of more than 1,000, a mobile hospital, missile launchers and about two dozen helicopters and attack planes”.

But, in an UPDATE on Saturday afternoon. AP reported that “U.S. rules of engagement prevent the Americans using their vastly superior fighting power to engage the pirates if there is any danger to civilians“. This AP UPDATED report can be viewed in full here
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US ships converge on lifeboat holding Somali pirates and American hostage

The first attack by Somali pirates on a U.S. ship in waters off the Horn of Africa this week yielded the first American hostage — the Captain of the U.S.-flagged commercial ship ship Maersk Alabama, which was transporting USAID food aid to East Africa.

The Captain, 53-year-old Richard Phillips of Underhill, Vermont, volunteered to be taken in exchange for the freedom of his ship and crew, and is being held by four Somali pirates aboard a drifting out-of-fuel lifeboat a couple of hundred miles off the Somali coast.

Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, is handling the situation. One U.S. Naval Destroyer has arrived on the scene and two more U.S. naval warships are on their way.

AP reported that said “U.S. President Barack Obama is getting regular updates on the situation, said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs”, as “pirate reinforcements with an international gallery of [still-held] hostages” are rushing, on board other hijacked ships, to support their four comrades.
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An interesting perspective on piracy off Somalia's coast

A very interesting report from a Voice of America correspondent in Kenya informs us, today, that both foreign intervention — and the failure of foreign intervention (the failure of the international community to act) are responsible for piracy off the coast of Somalia (presumably, in Somali territorial waters).
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UN Official freed in Somalia

The head of the UN’s World Food Program in Somalia was freed today on bail, the AP reported.

“Idris Osman, the Somali head of U.N. World Food Program operations in Somalia’s war-battered capital, was seized Oct. 17 when dozens of armed security agents stormed a U.N. compound. Osman was released on bail Tuesday, but is still under investigation for unspecified crimes, said a top Somali intelligence chief, Gen. Mohamed Warsame Darwish”.

The AP report on the freeing of a UN official in Somalia is published on the NY Times website.

UPDATE: Osman has apparently been pardoned by the President of what is reported to be a non-functioning government in Somalia, which will also participate in a joint investigation of this whole incident with the UN’s World Food Program. The UN spokesperson announced at Tuesday’s regular Noon Briefing for journalists at UNHQ/NY that: “Osman was now back at work at the United Nations office in Mogadishu upon a decision by the President, with no charges laid against him. The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Transitional Federal Government will shortly launch a joint fact-finding mission looking into the circumstances of his detention”.

In response to questions from a journalist, there was a bit more light shed on the situation:

“Question: It had been reported that one of the reasons behind it was the Government’s unhappiness that WFP was distributing food through mosques, so I’d like to know if we can get an answer to whether WFP intends to continue distributing food through mosques or is, in fact, stopping that.

Spokesperson:  As far as I know, the distribution through mosques has been continuing”.

[The Spokesperson later added that food distributions had been interrupted after Somali National Security Service officers entered the United Nations compound in Mogadishu on 17 October.  They will resume in Mogadishu as soon as possible, with the agreement of the Transitional Federal Government. The World Food Programme (WFP) had announced that they would distribute food in the most effective way to reach the people in need, including through the mosques.]