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Somali Pirates Are as Brazen as Ever

Posted July. 05, 2006 03:20,   


“In the middle of the night, three boats approached us silently. They stormed aboard with guns blazing and gathered the crew together. Then they roared telling us to sail toward the shore.”

The Tanzanian chief engineer formerly aboard “Semlow,” Juma Muita (50), who had been kidnapped in Somalia for 101 days and was freed recently, told the New York Times his account of the kidnap in an interview on July 3.

The Semlow was heading to the northern part of Somalia with 850 tons of food supplied by the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) when it was attacked by Somali pirates 55km off the coast in June last year.

"These pirates are worse than the pirates we read about in history books," said Muita, who was freed after all the sufferings. "These Somali pirates are better armed and they want ransom, not just our goods."

"I`ve been everywhere, and I`ll continue to go everywhere, just not anywhere near Somalia." He added shivering.

It is presumed that the Somali pirates Munita talks about are the same pirates as the ones who kidnapped the The Dongwon 628, a deep-sea fishing vessel belonging to Dongwon Fisheries.

The New York Times reported on July 3 that the ships detained by the Somali pirates are The Dongwon with 25 crew members, a Panamanian oil tanker with a crew of 19, and a Georgian cargo ship with eight crew members. It also said that the Somali pirates act in tribal units, and are divided into four major piracy groups that adopt such names as the National Volunteer Coast Guard and the Somali Marines.

Organized like a military unit, with admirals, vice admirals and the like, they sometimes sail as far as 600 km off the land in the ships they kidnapped.

Most exemplary is the Indian ship Al Bisarat which was seized by the destroyer of the U.S. Navy in January this year. The pirates were engaging in piracy far off the land with the ship they kidnapped as the mother ship when they were captured by the U.S. Navy.

The members of the piracy group who are under the judgment of the law in Kenya are asserting that they are no more than ordinary fishermen who only asked the Indian ship for help after being wrecked.

The reason the Somali coast became crowded with pirates is because the security system of the Somali government broke down during the long lasting internal war. Between the beginning of last year and March this year, pirates appeared in this area 45 times, and 19 ships have been seized.

Meanwhile the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT), regarding the negotiation on the liberalization of The Donwon, which has been captured for three months now, announced, “The crew members are all well and the negotiation has come to its concluding phase.” A MOFAT related person explained, “The crew members are all aboard except the captain Choi Seong-sik who is being held on land. Some of the crew members talked with their families on the phone.”

Myoung-Gun Lee zsh75@donga.com gun43@donga.com