Thursday, October 9, 2008

Somali Pirate Crisis

Today is day 14 of the most recent (and most significant) act of piracy off the coast of Somalia. On September 25, 2008 Somali pirates hijacked the Ukrainian cargo ship Faina in the lawless Gulf of Aden. The fact that Somali pirates have hijacked another ship in these waters is hardly extraordinary (in 2008 alone pirates have hijacked at least 25 ships and have received millions in ransom payments), but the cargo aboard the ship in question this time around has created an international crisis. The Faina is flush with weapons: T-72 Soviet tanks, grenade launchers, and ammunition.

Where was this arsenal headed? For the moment, this remains unclear. Kenya claims that the Faina's contents were meant for the Kenyan military as part of a recognized arms deal. While others, including the Somali pirates themselves, have asserted that the cargo was covertly destined for southern Sudan. The international community is not taking any chances that the weapons reach Islamists waging war inside Somalia and is hoping for an immediate end to the situation. The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1838 on October 7 which urges "states with naval vessels and military aircraft operating in the area to use, on the high seas and airspace off the coast of Somalia, the necessary means to repress acts of piracy in a manner consistent with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea."

Six American battleships have already surrounded the Faina in the Indian Ocean. NATO and Russian ships are on their way. Facing seemingly insurmountable odds the spokesman for the pirates, Sugule Ali, now says that the sea wolves are open to negotiations on a ransom demand of 20 million dollars.

UPDATE: Somali pirates take Saudi supertanker.

UPDATE: Indian warship attacks, sinks pirate mother ship.

UPDATE: Pirates take Yemeni cargo ship, Indian Navy may have sunk wrong ship, Are Pirates a good thing?

UPDATE (12/19): Pirates to get huge ransom.

(photo credit: Agence France-Presse)