Somali pirates sieze ship full of T-72 tanks

from the BBC

Pirates off the coast of Somalia have seized a Ukrainian ship carrying T-72 tanks, an official has said.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry said the ship had a crew of 21 and was sailing under a Belize flag to the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

A report from Russia’s Interfax news agency said earlier that the ship had a cargo of about 30 tanks, as well as spare parts for armoured vehicles.

There has been a recent surge in piracy off the coast of Somalia.

The country has not had an effective national government for 17 years, leading to a collapse of law and order both on land and at sea.

Somali pirates are currently holding more than a dozen hijacked ships in the base in Eyl, a town in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

It was not immediately clear where the Ukrainian ship had been taken.

Speed boats

The Ukrainian foreign ministry said the captain of the Faina cargo ship had reported being surrounded by three boats of armed men on Thursday afternoon.

Andrew Mwangura, who runs the Kenya chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Programme, confirmed to the BBC that the ship was carrying a cargo of tanks.

The tanks were due to be transported by road from Kenya to South Sudan.

Security analyst Knox Chitiyo told the BBC that the incident “shows that the waters off Somalia’s coast have become a global security problem.”

“Piracy has become big business and there seems to be no concerted response to the problem,” said Mr Chitiyo, from the London-based Royal United Services Institute.

Last week, France circulated a draft UN resolution urging states to deploy naval vessels and aircraft to combat piracy in the area.

France has intervened twice to free French sailors kidnapped by pirates, with commandos freeing two people whose boat had been hijacked in the Gulf of Aden earlier this month.

After an earlier raid in April, six arrested pirates were handed over to French authorities for trial.

International navies have been escorting humanitarian deliveries to Somalia, where a third of the population needs food aid.

Flourishing industry

Pirates have seized dozens of ships from the major shipping routes near Somalia’s coast in recent months.

Pirate “mother ships” travel far out to sea and launch smaller boats to attack passing vessels, sometimes using rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). Authorities in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland say they are powerless to confront the pirates, who have been growing in strength.

In Eyl, where ships are held for ransom, a flourishing local industry has developed.

Insurgents in Somalia, not known to have links to the pirates, are currently battling a combination of government troops, their Ethiopian allies and African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu and other parts of southern Somalia.

The US has an anti-terror task force based in neighbouring Djibouti and has carried out several air strikes against the Islamist insurgents, accusing them of sheltering al-Qaeda operatives.

more info here:

Somalia: the new Afghanistan?:

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