No stopping the pirates (but darnit, we’ll try)

Despite the U.S. and Russian warships positioned nearby, pirates menacing the waters off the Somali coast are looking fearless. Another seven ships were attacked this week and the Ukrainian weapons ship is still up for ransom. This NATO map shows where the latest incidents are — neatly surrounding Somalia’s boomerang-shaped coast. Time to call for ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
592002_081017_somalia2.jpg
592002_081017_somalia2.jpg

Despite the U.S. and Russian warships positioned nearby, pirates menacing the waters off the Somali coast are looking fearless. Another seven ships were attacked this week and the Ukrainian weapons ship is still up for ransom. This NATO map shows where the latest incidents are -- neatly surrounding Somalia's boomerang-shaped coast.

Time to call for backup! NATO escorted a humanitarian ship to the coast Wednesday, following the U.N. Security Council's request last week. Today, India announced its first ship deployment to Somalia's Gulf of Aden to protect the 90 percent of India's trade (by volume) that travels that route. The latest additions mean that some 10 countries have sent or are sending their forces to stop the pirates.

But the newly arriving warships will face the wrath of Somalia's Islamic Courts, the party that governed Somalia until an Ethiopian incursion installed a transitional government in late 2006. That governing body, now operating largely underground, has declared war on the incoming vessels. 

Despite the U.S. and Russian warships positioned nearby, pirates menacing the waters off the Somali coast are looking fearless. Another seven ships were attacked this week and the Ukrainian weapons ship is still up for ransom. This NATO map shows where the latest incidents are — neatly surrounding Somalia’s boomerang-shaped coast.

Time to call for backup! NATO escorted a humanitarian ship to the coast Wednesday, following the U.N. Security Council’s request last week. Today, India announced its first ship deployment to Somalia’s Gulf of Aden to protect the 90 percent of India’s trade (by volume) that travels that route. The latest additions mean that some 10 countries have sent or are sending their forces to stop the pirates.

But the newly arriving warships will face the wrath of Somalia’s Islamic Courts, the party that governed Somalia until an Ethiopian incursion installed a transitional government in late 2006. That governing body, now operating largely underground, has declared war on the incoming vessels. 

Pirates in recent years have made millions in ransom — booty that has funded satellite phones, weapons, and GPS systems. Plus, the pirates are political — angry at foreign shipping off their coast and political neglect at home. So, as the European Union’s special envoy told the AP, solving the problem is “not only a matter of sending ships, it is also a matter of entering into dialogue on the ground.”

Of course, where some see gloom, others see opportunity. Blackwater Security, the infamous private defense firm, has offered one of its ships to man the Gulf of Aden, perhaps hoping to win contracts from the world’s shipping companies to guard their fleets. The Somali government looks interested, but a similar government deal with a French security firm fell apart over miscommunication earlier this summer.

Hold your breath for a standoff when all these pirate-fighting boats arrive. If Somalia’s waters are anything like its land, there will be lots of interesting surprises.

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

Tag: Africa

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