Piracy at sea is at its lowest level in six years, with 264 attacks recorded, a 40% drop since Somali piracy peaked in 2011.
The drop in worldwide piracy attacks has greatly been due to the dramatic drop of incidents recorded in waters off Somalia. In 2013, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported fifteen incidents off Somalia. According to its records, this is down from 75 in 2012 and 237 in 2011. The increase of armed guards on vessels, coupled with international navy patrols and the “stabilizing influence” of Somalia’s government have aided in deterring pirate. According to Pottengal Mukundan, IMB’s director, “the single biggest reason for the drop in worldwide piracy is the decrease in Somali piracy off the coast of East Africa,” adding that “it is imperative to continue combined international efforts to tackle Somali piracy. Any complacency at this stage could re-kindle pirate activity.”
The IMB’s annual global piracy report has indicated that more than 300 people were taken hostage at sea in 2013 and 21 were injured, nearly all with guns or knives.
Examining global piracy figures, Indonesia witnessed the most pirate attacks last year, accounting for more than 50 of all reported incidents. However it must be noted that attacks in waters of Indonesia were “low-level opportunistic thefts, not to be compared with the more serious incidents off Africa.” Piracy off West Africa made up 19% of attacks worldwide in 2013. According to the IMB report, Nigerian pirates accounted for 31 of the region’s 51 attacks. These attacks were “particularly violent,” with one crew member killed, and thirty-six people kidnapped and held onshore for ransom.
In November 2013, a United Nations and World Bank report indicated that pirates operating off the Horn of Africa, which are some of the world’s busiest shipping and humanitarian aid routes, had netted more than US $400 million (£251 million) in ransom money between 2005 and 2012.
Meanwhile in neighboring Kenya, the trial of four men charged over the Westgate shopping centre siege began in Kenya’s capital Nairobi.
The four suspected foreigners have denied the charges of aiding a “terrorist group,” and of being in Kenya illegally. However none of the men – named as Mohammed Ahmed Abdi, Liban Abdullah, Adnan Ibrahim, and Hussein Hassan – have been accused of being the gunmen who carried out the attack. While their nationalities have not been disclosed, they are said to be ethnic Somalis.
Police officials in Kenya have also indicated that the four accused had sheltered the attackers in their homes in Eastleigh a Somali neighbourhood in Nairobi, and that they were in contact with the gunmen four days prior to the siege being carried out.
During the first day of the trial, the court heard testimony from security guards who saw what happened when the gunmen launched the attack in September 2013, killing at least sixty-seven people. During his testimony, guard Stephen Juma told the court that he had been directing traffic outside the upmarket shopping centre when a car pulled up and three men jumped out. According to Mr Juma, one of them immediately shot dead a shopper, adding that “I began to hear gunshots, I made a radio call for help while running to the main entrance.” Mr Juma further noted that he could not identify any of the gunmen as their heads and faces had been covered with black headscarves.
The four are the first to be charged over the attack, which was the worst in Kenya since 224 people were killed in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy. Reports have indicated that around forty witnesses are expected to give evidence at the trial, which is likely to last around a week.
Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab confirmed days after the siege at they were behind the attack, indicating that one of its suicide brigades carried out the siege. Although al-Shabaab is fighting for the creation of an Islamic state in Somalia, the militant group has on numerous occasions carried out attacks in neighboring Kenya in a bid to avenge the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia to bolster the UN-backed central government.
On 4 December, a report entitled “The Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond” was presented to EU home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström in the European Parliament. This, the second report on the topic, focuses on collusion between authorities and criminal networks in human trafficking from the Horn of Africa into the Sinai Peninsula. Between 2007 and 2012, as many as 30,000 men, women and children were trafficked by Eritrean and Sudanese security officers working with Bedouin gangs.
The report categorises trafficking in two main categories, those who are “kidnapped”, and those who are “smuggled”, leaving voluntarily, but abducted in the process of migration. In both cases, the victims are ultimately transferred to members of the Rashaida and Hidarib Bedouin tribes (either through financial exchange, or surrendered by force), and sent to torture camps in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Many of the victims have been abducted from refugee camps in Ethiopia, Sudan or Eritrea. Most troubling, the report finds that approximately 95% of abductees are from Eritrea.
Nearly 3,000 Eritreans attempt to leave their landlocked nation each month. The disproportionate number of Eritreans abducted stems from three key factors: 1) the diaspora includes a tightly knit community structure and disposable income, which increases the chance of collecting ransom; 2) the lack of alternatives and relative destitution of Eritrean migrants and refugees particularly youth who are forced into conscription and child labour; and 3) the involvement of some Eritrean authorities in trafficking.
Eritreans require an exit visa to leave their nation. Because there is a “shoot to kill” policy at the Eritrea/Ethiopia border, many Eritreans choose to exit the nation through the Sudanese border, seeking shelter in Sudanese refugee camps. The report finds that trafficking would not be possible without the collusion of local Eritrean security officials. Further, many involuntary Eritrean victims are kidnapped by the country’s senior military officers and smuggled into Sudan.
Once in Sudan, the victims’ families are contacted with a threat to sell the hostages to Bedouin traffickers in Sinai if the ransom demand is not met. The report states that the hostages are, “chained together without toilets or washing facilities and dehydrated, starved and deprived of sleep.”
If demands are not met, victims are ultimately sent to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and placed in torture camps as ransom demands continue. Torture methods include “burning, beating, and electrocuting. Some hostages are slashed with knives, or have bottles melted on their skin. Some are repeated [sic] raped; some have been hung.” In addition, some victims have had their organs harvested.
Estimates reveal that between 5,000 and 10,000 of the hostages have died in captivity. Refugees continue to be abducted and held in Sinai, and an increasing number of victims are taken involuntarily from their home countries. Since 2009, nearly £366 million has been extorted from families in ransom payments. Those that escape trafficking risk further abduction, or are detained by Egyptian or Israeli authorities, where they are imprisoned then forced to pay their own deportation and repatriation fees.
One month after Somalia’s al-Shabaab militants stormed Kenya’s Westgate shopping centre, killing sixty-seven people during a four-day siege, the threat from the militant group, and local sympathizers, remains high as officials in Somalia and in the African Union (AU) look towards increasing troop numbers in a bid to completely destroy a group which has transformed itself into a regional threat.
Posters reading “if you haven’t learnt the lesson Westgate, more is coming,” which were posted up last week during rallies held in the southern Somali port of Barawe, an al-Shabaab stronghold, confirm what is already going on throughout the country. Over the past number of months, al-Shabaab has significantly increased its attacks, both within Somalia and near the border regions with Kenya and Ethiopia, both countries which have deployed troops to Somalia in order to combat the militant group. While these attacks will not stop any time soon, recent remarks made by commanders within the group have indicated that al-Shabaab may increasingly place pressure on those states that have deployed troops in Somalia in a bid to force their withdrawal.
While over the past two years, AMISOM forces throughout Somalia have dislodged al-Shabaab from a number of its strongholds, including from the capital city of Mogadishu and the surrounding regions, as well as from the southern port city of Kismayo, the militant group has continued to carry out assassinations of politicians and journalists along with a number of suicide bombings that have targeted troops and security officials. While most of the groups‘ previous attacks have typically been small in scale, al-Shabaab has carried out large scale attacks in Somalia and in the region, such as the June 2013 attack on a UN compound in Mogadishu or the 2010 bombings in Kampala which killed seventy-six people. However this more recent attack on the Nairobi mall has demonstrated a significant and worrying step up in al-Shabaab’s operations, with the group now seemingly increasingly concentrating on attacks that require longer periods of planning and surveillance. Uganda’s announcement last week that it had increased its security level in the capital city of Kampala, after officials from the US Embassy indicated that they had credible information of a possible terror attack linked to al-Shabaab, also signified that the terrorist group may now increasingly focus on targeting regional interests, especially in those countries which have deployed troops to battle the militant group in Somalia. This recent move may also signify that al-Shabaab is turning its focus from Somalia’s internal politics to a more global agenda, similar to al-Qaeda, which the group is aligned with.
The battle to defeat al-Shabaab will now likely have to concentrate not only within Somalia, but also throughout the wider region, including in the countries that have deployed their armies in Somalia, such as Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. While the AU force in Somalia has requested that its size be increased by a quarter, which will amount to 23,000 troops, preventing al-Shabaab from attaining territorial gains within Somalia will not eliminate the group entirely. A UN report recently indicated that “al-Shabaab continues to pose a regional and international threat through its affiliates,” noting that as AU troops have seized more territory throughout Somalia, there has been an “increasing exodus” of foreign fighters, some of whom left “with the intention of supporting jihad in the region.” Last week’s announcement that a Norwegian citizen of Somali origin, 23-year-old Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow, was suspected of being one of the attackers in the Westgate incident confirmed what United Nations experts have already noted. That dozens, if not hundreds, of young men from countries across the Horn of Africa travel to Somalia in order to train with al-Shabaab militants. In turn, it remains unknown whether the Westgate attackers were sent specifically from Somalia, or whether they were a “homegrown” team recruited within Kenya. Consequently increasingly focusing on fighters coming from Western or Arab nations, along with local sympathizers and groups aligned with al-Shabaab across eastern Africa, will be a necessary step in fighting the militant group.
Summary: There were a total of 43 reported incidents that occurred in April. The Horn of Africa and IOR saw relatively low activity across the High Risk Area (HRA) throughout the month of April. Most of the incidents that occurred were suspicious sightings of dhows towing skiffs however a single attack was confirmed. Meanwhile in Western Africa, in the Gulf of Guinea, attacks have occurred mainly off the coast of Nigeria, mainly south of Brass, in the state of Bayelsa. In Asia, incidents remained largely to be petty thefts in ports however a number of attacks were more violent and occurred on vessels underway. A barge was also reported stolen in the region. Lastly, robbery in South American ports remained at a steady count in April, however there are fears that a number of incidents were unreported.
Early in the morning of March 30, off the island of Masirah, Oman, the Liberian flagged cargo bulk carrier, the Atlantik Confidence, reported to have a fire in the engine room and requested assistance. Upon receiving the message, Admiral Antonio Natale, Commander of the NATO Task Force engaged in the fight against piracy off the Horn of Africa, promptly ordered the nearest vessel under his command, the frigate USS Nicholas, to proceed at maximum and to provide assistance. Sometime later, the Captain of the Altantik Confidence ordered his crew members, which comprised of 21 Turkish Seamen, to abandon the ship as he had assessed that the fire was now out of control. Upon reaching the scene, it was seen that the merchant vessel war already partially sunk but still floating. After verifying that the survivors appeared to be safely in life-boats and did not need immediate medical assistance, the NATO Ship coordinated the embarkation operations on board an oil tanker called Pluto transiting in the area and which was also manned entirely by a Turkish crew. According to a NavWar that was issued by US MARAD, the damaged ship sank around 140 nautical miles off the Wusta coast on April 3.
In Western Africa, one hijack was reported this month in the region. The offshore crew boat, Utai 8, with a crew of 3, went missing. The boat was reported to have been involved in a 2-boat attack on the MT City of Xiamen where 5 crew were kidnapped.
In Asia, fifteen pirates armed with guns and long knives in three high speed boats boarded the tug Hub 21 which was underway in the South China Sea. They took nine crew members hostage, assaulted some of the crew and tied them up. They ransacked all the cabins and stole the ship’s property as well as the crew members’ cash and personal items before escaping. Meanwhile the crew from a neighboring barge noticed an unknown tug boat pulling the cargo barge off Tanjung Ayajm, Malaysia. Eng Tou 266 was stolen and remains to be missing.
South America saw three incidents, with robberies occurring in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.
Horn of Africa
|Serial||Date||Vessel Name||Flag/Type||Location/Type of Incident|
|1||1 April||Unknown||Suspicious Activity – IRTC, GoA/Dhow and four skiffs|
|2||2 April||Alpha Kirawira||Sierra Leone/General Cargo ship||NE of Kismayo, Somalia/Attack: Skiff fired, AST warning shots|
|3||2 April||Unknown||Suspicious Activity – Gulf of Aden/2 dhows and 3 – 4 skiffs|
|4||3 April||Atlantik Confidence||Bulk Carrier||NavWarn – MV sank Apr 3 after fire & abandonment – possible empty lifeboat adrift|
|5||3 April||Unnamed||Panama/Bulk Carrier||Suspicious Activity – NE of Masirah Island, Oman/Lifeboat and 5 skiffs observed MV, AST stood to|
|6||3 April||Unnamed||Liberia/Tanker||Suspicious Activity – Lifeboat and 2 skiffs, skiffs approached MV; MV moved away|
|7||4 April||Unnamed||Cayman Islands/Tanker||Suspicious Activity – IRTC, GoA/4 Dhows and 11 skiffs|
|8||8 April||Unnamed||Unknown||Suspicious Activity – IRTC, GoA/Dhow and 4 skiffs, AST report|
|9||9 April||Unnamed||Panama/Tanker||Suspicious Activity – IRTC/GoA/Mothership and 2 skiffs trailed MV for 20 mins; AST weapons displayed|
|10||10 April||Unnamed||Suspicious Activity – Gulf of Aden/Dhow and 2 skiffs|
|11||11 April||Unnamed||Suspicious Activity – Red Sea/3 skiffs|
|12||29 April||Unnamed||Suspicious Activity – IRTC, GoA/Dhow and 2 skiffs; Warship response; helicopter investigated|
|Serial||Date||Vessel Name||Flag/Type||Location/Type of Incident|
|1||11 April||RMS Baerl||Antigua & Barbuda/General Cargo Ship||Freetown Inner Roads, Sierra Leone/Robbery; AB held at knifepoint|
|2||13 April||Gyre||USA/Offshore Support Vessel||Parrot Island, Calabar River, Nigeria/Attack; Warning shots fired|
|3||13 April||Leon Dias||Liberia/Chemical Tanker||SE of Brass, Nigeria/Attack; board; robbery; release|
|4||16 April||Cap Theodora||Greece/Crude Tanker||WNW Principe Island, Gulf of Guinea/Attack; evaded hijack|
|5||18 April||Corinth||Marshall Islands/General Cargo Ship||Pointe Noire anchorage, The Congo/Attempted boarding|
|6||22 April||Cap Theodora||Greece/Crude Tanker||SSE of Brass, Nigeria/Attack; numerous boarding attempts|
|7||23 April||Hansa Marburg||Liberia/Container Ship||105 nm off Nigeria/Attack, board and kidnap of 4 crew members|
|8||24 April||Bosun||Antigua & Barbuda/Container Ship||SSW of Nigeria coast/Attack; fired upon; evaded|
|9||25 April||Utai 8||Nigeria Crew/Change Boat||S of Brass, Nigeria/Hijack with 3 crew members; possible Mothership|
|10||25 April||City of Xiamen||Antigua & Barbuda/Container Ship||WSW of Brass, Nigeria/Attack 2 boats – Utai 8 – Citadel Breach, 5 kidnapped|
|11||26 April||City of Guangzhou||Antigua & Barbuda/Container Ship||WSW of Brass, Nigeria/Attack, attempt board, 1 hour chase|
|Serial||Date||Vessel Name||Flag/Type||Location/Type of Incident|
|1||1 April||Crane||Marshall Islands/Bulk Carrier||Chittagong anchorage A, Bangladesh/Boarding and failed robbery; 6 robbers, whilst discharging ops|
|NS||1 April||Condor||Marshall Islands/Bulk Carrier||Suspicious Activity – Indian Ocean/Group of boats, crew to citadel, evasive action, AST stood to|
|NS||2 April||Wehr Blankenese||Marshall Islands/Container Ship||Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam/Robbery, unnoticed|
|2||3 April||Ivor Exact||Gibraltar (UK)/Chemical Tanker||Dumai anchorage, Indonesia/Approach, 4 robbers|
|3||3 April||Sher-e-Punjab||Liberia/Bulk Carrier||Adang Bay anchorage, Indonesia/Robbery|
|4||4 April||Garden River City||Singapore/Crude Tanker||Dumai Inner anchorage, Indonesia/Robbery|
|5||5 April||New Century||Marshall Islands/Oil Tanker||Visakhapatnam anchorage, India/Attempted boarding, 7 robbers in 3 fishing boats|
|6||6 April||Maersk Bering||Singapore/Chemical Tanker||Belawan anchorage, Indonesia/Robbery, unnoticed; Attempt to “sell back” to ship|
|7||9 April||Westgate||Liberia/Bulk Carrier||Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam/Robbery, unnoticed|
|8||12 April||Densa Jaguar||Malta/Bulk Carrier||Surabaya Port, Indonesia/Attempted robbery|
|9||17 April||IVS Magpie||Singapore/Bulk Carrier||Campha Outer anchorage, Vietnam/Board and robbery|
|10||19 April||Singapore River||Singapore/Tanker||Dumai inner anchorage, Indonesia/Robbery|
|11||22 April||Eng Tou 266||Singapore/Barge Carrier||Off Tanjung Ayajm, Malaysia/Barge stolen|
|12||23 April||AD Phoenix||Singapore/Tanker||NE of Bintan Island, Indonesia/Robbery; no response authorities|
|13||24 April||Hub 21||Malaysia/Tug||South China Sea/Robbery; 15 pirates in 3 speedboats, 9 crew taken hostage, some assaulted and tied up.|
|14||24 April||Nadiya Melisende||Kiribati/Product Tanker||NE of Bintan Island, Indonesia/Robbery|
|15||27 April||Fairchem Maverick||Panama/Chemical Tanker||Berth Ocean Quay 106, Belawan Port, Indonesia/Robbery, 2 robbers board vessel|
|16||29 April||Crest Gold1/Crest 2821||Singapore/Tug and Barge||Singapore Straits/Robbery from barge being towed by tug|
|17||30 April||Kohinoor||Panama/General Cargo Ship||Belawan Port, Indonesia/Robbery during customs/Discharge ops|
|Serial||Date||Vessel Name||Flag/Type||Location/Type of Incident|
|1||13 April||Unique Guardian||Hong Kong, China/Chemical Tanker||Punta Talara anchorage, Peru/robbery|
|2||15 April||Maersk Nienburg||Hong Kong, China/Container Ship||Guayaquil, Ecuador/Boarding|
|3||16 April||Shamrock||Barbados/Ro-Ro Cargo Ship||Cartagena Inner anchorage, Colombia/Robbery|