In October 2011, Robert Young Pelton, publisher of Somalia Report,set off on a tour into pirate country -- in the semiautonomous region of Puntland, Somalia -- in order to better understand the fight against piracy being waged along these shores. As he writes for FP, "My week and a half at sea plotting the vast distances and  measuring the response time of the designated naval escorts made it clear to me  that piracy would never be defeated at sea. But I had plenty of time with my  new South African friend who worked for a security company named Sterling  Corporate Services to understand a new program -- how exactly how pirates could  be defeated very quickly, on land."        Above, cocktail time in the Gulf of Aden. The Burmese master of the ship on which Pelton was traveling -- the MV MAP K --  brought these glasses along to add a little dark humor to the perilous   voyage. The liquor was Pelton's.

The Pirates of Puntland

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In October 2011, Robert Young Pelton, publisher of Somalia Report,set off on a tour into pirate country -- in the semiautonomous region of Puntland, Somalia -- in order to better understand the fight against piracy being waged along these shores. As he writes for FP, "My week and a half at sea plotting the vast distances and  measuring the response time of the designated naval escorts made it clear to me  that piracy would never be defeated at sea. But I had plenty of time with my  new South African friend who worked for a security company named Sterling  Corporate Services to understand a new program -- how exactly how pirates could  be defeated very quickly, on land."        Above, cocktail time in the Gulf of Aden. The Burmese master of the ship on which Pelton was traveling -- the MV MAP K --  brought these glasses along to add a little dark humor to the perilous   voyage. The liquor was Pelton's.

In October 2011, Robert Young Pelton, publisher of Somalia Report,set off on a tour into pirate country -- in the semiautonomous region of Puntland, Somalia -- in order to better understand the fight against piracy being waged along these shores. As he writes for FP, "My week and a half at sea plotting the vast distances and measuring the response time of the designated naval escorts made it clear to me that piracy would never be defeated at sea. But I had plenty of time with my new South African friend who worked for a security company named Sterling Corporate Services to understand a new program -- how exactly how pirates could be defeated very quickly, on land."  

Above, cocktail time in the Gulf of Aden. The Burmese master of the ship on which Pelton was traveling -- the MV MAP K -- brought these glasses along to add a little dark humor to the perilous voyage. The liquor was Pelton's.

As Pelton points out, the rate of successful pirate attacks has dropped dramatically in recent years, thanks largely to more aggressive defense measures from commerical shipping. But that doesn't mean piracy is dead. The average ransomed ship brings in over $5 million dollars. And, though Somali pirates just a few years ago held over 1,000 prisoners for ransom, there are still 200 hostages being held by pirates today. "That's  still enough to fill a Boeing 757," writes Pelton.       Above, a typical pirate attack skiff heads out in this photo supplied to Somalia Report. Note   the twin motors, home-made boarding ladder, and extra tanks of fuel.



As Pelton points out, the rate of successful pirate attacks has dropped dramatically in recent years, thanks largely to more aggressive defense measures from commerical shipping. But that doesn't mean piracy is dead. The average ransomed ship brings in over $5 million dollars. And, though Somali pirates just a few years ago held over 1,000 prisoners for ransom, there are still 200 hostages being held by pirates today. "That's still enough to fill a Boeing 757," writes Pelton. 

Above, a typical pirate attack skiff heads out in this photo supplied to Somalia Report. Note the twin motors, home-made boarding ladder, and extra tanks of fuel.

Even though the situation is improving, dramatic pirate attacks and prolonged hostage situations continue to occur. Above, four South Korean nationals, the former crew of a seized vessel, continue to be held by pirates as a protest against killings of their comrades during a rescue operation in January 2011. Although the pirates released the South Korean vessel and its other 21 crew members in exchange for $6 million dollars, these four have been kept while the pirates negotiate for a larger settlement. Two of the four have fallen ill and have not been provided with adequate medical care.
Even though the situation is improving, dramatic pirate attacks and prolonged hostage situations continue to occur. Above, four South Korean nationals, the former crew of a seized vessel, continue to be held by pirates as a protest against killings of their comrades during a rescue operation in January 2011. Although the pirates released the South Korean vessel and its other 21 crew members in exchange for $6 million dollars, these four have been kept while the pirates negotiate for a larger settlement. Two of the four have fallen ill and have not been provided with adequate medical care.

Many of the gains against pirates are being made by the Puntland Marine Police Force (PMPF), a UAE-funded mission trained by African, British, South  African, and U.S. foreign contractors. Pelton reports that, this summer, the PMPF was ready to launch a full-scale attack on both leading pirates and members of al Qaeda and al Shabab fleeing southern Somalia. But Western officials, particularly, the United Nations were concerned with a regional body -- as opposed to the transitional government based in Mogadishu -- taking security into its own hands and applied pressure to shut down the police force.      Above, a member of the PMPF patrols the beach in the Bari region of Puntland. 

Many of the gains against pirates are being made by the Puntland Marine Police Force (PMPF), a UAE-funded mission trained by African, British, South African, and U.S. foreign contractors. Pelton reports that, this summer, the PMPF was ready to launch a full-scale attack on both leading pirates and members of al Qaeda and al Shabab fleeing southern Somalia. But Western officials, particularly, the United Nations were concerned with a regional body -- as opposed to the transitional government based in Mogadishu -- taking security into its own hands and applied pressure to shut down the police force.

Above, a member of the PMPF patrols the beach in the Bari region of Puntland. 

A South African trainer and interpreter provides evening briefings   before prayer to the Somali recruits for the PMPF in Bosaso in 2011. Two groups of   450 men each were trained to conduct anti-piracy police work.

A South African trainer and interpreter provides evening briefings before prayer to the Somali recruits for the PMPF in Bosaso in 2011. Two groups of 450 men each were trained to conduct anti-piracy police work.

In addition to anti-piracy work, the PMPF took on other roles. Here, a convoy of the recruits deliver water with Western mentors during Somalia's 2011 drought.

In addition to anti-piracy work, the PMPF took on other roles. Here, a convoy of the recruits deliver water with Western mentors during Somalia's 2011 drought.

There were some successful arrests of powerful pirates. One major target was a former lobster fisherman turned pirate leader  named Abshir "Boyah," pictured above in Bosaso   prison. Pelton says, "The 44-year-old is from Eyl, and became one of the most successful  pirates after beginning to ply his trade in 1998. He had captured over 30   ships by the time he was first arrested in 2010, giving a number of media   interviews as a 'reformed pirate' before he was caught planning pirate   attacks with $29 million dollars and two pistols in his SUV. He was put back  in prison in 2011. He insists he was protecting the seas."

There were some successful arrests of powerful pirates. One major target was a former lobster fisherman turned pirate leader named Abshir "Boyah," pictured above in Bosaso prison. Pelton says, "The 44-year-old is from Eyl, and became one of the most successful pirates after beginning to ply his trade in 1998. He had captured over 30 ships by the time he was first arrested in 2010, giving a number of media interviews as a 'reformed pirate' before he was caught planning pirate attacks with $29 million dollars and two pistols in his SUV. He was put back in prison in 2011. He insists he was protecting the seas."

In 2008, Eyl, where Boyah is from, was the epicenter   of piracy, but now it is pirate-free. The ancient source of fresh water   and modern-day fishing town is now one of the forward operating bases of  the PMFP.      Here, a young boy waits for his father to set out for night lobster   fishing in Eyl. Lobsters here are severely overfished and   sold to Yemeni dhows waiting offshore. 

In 2008, Eyl, where Boyah is from, was the epicenter of piracy, but now it is pirate-free. The ancient source of fresh water and modern-day fishing town is now one of the forward operating bases of the PMFP.

Here, a young boy waits for his father to set out for night lobster fishing in Eyl. Lobsters here are severely overfished and sold to Yemeni dhows waiting offshore. 

The most successful pirate negotiator in Somalia is Abdi Saed Bafe, or   "Looyan." The one-eyed pirate has negotiated over two dozen ransoms and   lives in Garowe with his wife and two children. He most recently made   $500,000 from the estimated $9 million ransom of the Enrico Ilevo.

The most successful pirate negotiator in Somalia is Abdi Saed Bafe, or "Looyan." The one-eyed pirate has negotiated over two dozen ransoms and lives in Garowe with his wife and two children. He most recently made $500,000 from the estimated $9 million ransom of the Enrico Ilevo.

The PMPF's biggest target was pirate captain Isse Yulux, who is hoping to ransom the chemical tanker Royal Grace and oil tanker MV Smyrni to the tune   of $5.5 million and $11.5 million, respectively. However, as the police force was gearing up to go after the pirate, support for the PMFP began to waver. As Pelton reports, "Although the anti-piracy program was briefed to the U.S.  embassy in Nairobi (which coordinates U.S. policy in Somalia), officials held a dim view of  Puntland's attempt to bolster its own security. Not surprisingly, the West still  sees Somalia in its shiny new  colonial clothes -- one nation under one government."      The Royal Grace and the MV Smyrni  are seen here off the coast of Rasu Bina near Hafun in   Puntland in June 2012.

The PMPF's biggest target was pirate captain Isse Yulux, who is hoping to ransom the chemical tanker Royal Grace and oil tanker MV Smyrni to the tune of $5.5 million and $11.5 million, respectively. However, as the police force was gearing up to go after the pirate, support for the PMFP began to waver. As Pelton reports, "Although the anti-piracy program was briefed to the U.S. embassy in Nairobi (which coordinates U.S. policy in Somalia), officials held a dim view of Puntland's attempt to bolster its own security. Not surprisingly, the West still sees Somalia in its shiny new colonial clothes -- one nation under one government."

The Royal Grace and the MV Smyrni are seen here off the coast of Rasu Bina near Hafun in Puntland in June 2012.

Frustrated with a lack of Western support, the president of Puntland, Abdirahman Mohamed Mohamed Farole, advocated a federal system but has been wary of the Mogadishu-based   central government. President Farole is a a former banker and Ph.D. candidate from LaTrobe University.  ("Farole"   means "fused toes," and is a traditional nickname handed down from his   father.) His interest in regional security led him to   approach the United Arab Emirates for funding for anti-piracy efforts and drought relief   in 2010. The result of that overture, the PMPF, was shut down in June 2012, just before the U.N.   Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group accused the program of violating the   two decade-old arms embargo. As Pelton writes, "In a classic no-win situation, the Puntland government found  itself being encouraged  to fight piracy by the United Nations at the same time those very actions were  being considered  by another wing of the U.N. to be contributing to security destabilization."

Frustrated with a lack of Western support, the president of Puntland, Abdirahman Mohamed Mohamed Farole, advocated a federal system but has been wary of the Mogadishu-based central government. President Farole is a a former banker and Ph.D. candidate from LaTrobe University. ("Farole" means "fused toes," and is a traditional nickname handed down from his father.) His interest in regional security led him to approach the United Arab Emirates for funding for anti-piracy efforts and drought relief in 2010. The result of that overture, the PMPF, was shut down in June 2012, just before the U.N. Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group accused the program of violating the two decade-old arms embargo. As Pelton writes, "In a classic no-win situation, the Puntland government found itself being encouraged to fight piracy by the United Nations at the same time those very actions were being considered by another wing of the U.N. to be contributing to security destabilization."

       While the PMPF did make gains against piracy, the threat of a resurgence looms large in Puntland. Above, some of the more than 400 pirates held in the Bosaso town jail pose for a picture. Pelton reports, "In 2012, I met children as young as 12 being held for piracy. Many of the pirates are reformed or have their sentences reversed on 'appeal' after a financial payment is made. The Somali legal system is influenced by the traditional 'xeer,' which works to negotiate an acceptable solution to defuse tensions and resolve clan-based disputes. Families of jailed pirates can appeal to this system and often pirates are released after serving a nominal sentence."

 

While the PMPF did make gains against piracy, the threat of a resurgence looms large in Puntland. Above, some of the more than 400 pirates held in the Bosaso town jail pose for a picture. Pelton reports, "In 2012, I met children as young as 12 being held for piracy. Many of the pirates are reformed or have their sentences reversed on 'appeal' after a financial payment is made. The Somali legal system is influenced by the traditional 'xeer,' which works to negotiate an acceptable solution to defuse tensions and resolve clan-based disputes. Families of jailed pirates can appeal to this system and often pirates are released after serving a nominal sentence."

While piracy might seem like a good job opportunity to a young Somali male, they're disliked by local communities for their use of violence, drugs, alcohol, and prostitutes. Pelton reports, "The inmates were eager to complain of many things. When one inmate complained of the heat, food, and crowded conditions, he said that his rights were being violated. I asked why he was in jail. 'Because I shot a man when I was drunk,' he replied, 'but I should not be subject to these conditions.'"       Above, a jailed pirate in Bosaso reportedly suffering from AIDs poses for a portrait. 

While piracy might seem like a good job opportunity to a young Somali male, they're disliked by local communities for their use of violence, drugs, alcohol, and prostitutes. Pelton reports, "The inmates were eager to complain of many things. When one inmate complained of the heat, food, and crowded conditions, he said that his rights were being violated. I asked why he was in jail. 'Because I shot a man when I was drunk,' he replied, 'but I should not be subject to these conditions.'" 

Above, a jailed pirate in Bosaso reportedly suffering from AIDs poses for a portrait. 

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