EU airstrikes on Somali pirate targets
May 15th, 2012
10:22 AM ET

EU airstrikes on Somali pirate targets

European Union naval forces on Tuesday struck Somali pirate targets on the coast of the country in the first raids by the European force on the Somali mainland.

"We believe this action by the EU Naval Force will further increase the pressure on, and disrupt pirates' efforts to get out to sea to attack merchant shipping and dhows," Rear Adm. Duncan Potts, operational commander of the force, said in a statement.

Several pirate attack skiffs, the small boats pirates use to attack merchant vessels in the open ocean, were destroyed in the raid, said Timo Lange, media officer at the naval force's headquarters in England.

No Somalis were injured in the raid, which was conducted entirely by air, the force's statement said.

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Filed under: Africa • EU • Piracy • Somalia
New pirate prison in Somalia aims to relieve international overload
May 7th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

New pirate prison in Somalia aims to relieve international overload

By Mike Mount

Somali pirates captured on the high seas and prosecuted in other countries are now being transferred to a new prison in Somalia. It's a significant change for countries combating piracy but are seeing their own jail systems overwhelmed as the U.S. and other countries continue to catch and turn over pirates to countries willing to prosecute them.

The prison, located in the self-governed northern part of Somalia, accepted its first detainees at the end of March, according to U.S. State Department officials. The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime is paying for the transport and the prison facility, according to U.S. State Department officials.

The first prisoners were transferred from the tiny island nation of Seychelles, located off the east coast of Africa, where small facilities have been quickly overcrowded. The new prison is in Hargeisa, the capital of the self-governed breakaway enclave of Somaliland. The region declared its independence in 1991 and has remained relatively violence-free and self-sustaining, unlike the southern part of the country. Somaliland's government will run the facility.

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Competing agendas at Somalia meeting
Somalian refugees in Kenya (file)
February 22nd, 2012
10:07 PM ET

Competing agendas at Somalia meeting

By Elise Labott

Somalia's problems are many.  Terrorism, lawlessness and piracy. A famine that led to a burgeoning refugee problem. And a weak central government whose mandate expires later this year.

Representatives from close to 50 countries and international organizations will gather Thursday in London for a conference on how to stabilize and rebuild Somalia after decades of war. The session aims to galvanize the international community to develop a more comprehensive approach to tackling these ills.

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Filed under: Africa • Al Qaeda • Al-Shabaab • Diplomacy • Piracy • Somalia • Terrorism
February 22nd, 2012
12:40 PM ET

Al-Shabaab and instability in Somalia

Children as young as 10 years old increasingly face horrific abuse in war-torn Somalia as the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab has targeted them to replenish its diminishing ranks of fighters, according to a new Human Rights Watch report.

The report was released ahead of a Somalia conference hosted by the British government. On Thursday, senior representatives from more than 40 governments will converge on London in a diplomatic push to find political solutions to restore stability in Somalia. CNN's Elise Labott explains why attendees are facing a tough and complicated challenge in coordinating an international approach to problems like Somali piracy and terrorism springing from the African nation's many years of lawlessness.

Great Britain is hosting the conference, in part, because Al-Shabaab has been recruiting in the U.K. CNN's Nima Elbajir describes "mini-Mogadishu's" across cities in Britain.  These seeming store fronts are actually cafes where Somalis congregate and talk, and possibly where young Somalis are recruited to become terrorists.

Al-Shabaab, which is reportedly tightening its ties to the al Qaeda terror network, is a militant Islamist group that controls much of southern Somalia and is active around the capital, Somalia. It has waged an insurgency against the weak Transitional Federal Government since 2007. More about how the group started

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Filed under: Africa • Al-Shabaab • Piracy • Somalia
Piracy and kidnapping in Somalia
January 25th, 2012
02:33 PM ET

Piracy and kidnapping in Somalia

By CNN's Tim Lister and Zain Verjee

Over the past several years, the pirates of Somalia have enjoyed what might be called a following wind. They operate in a country where government authority is weak and in many areas non-existent. They have the longest coastline of any African country to exploit (3,300 kms), and some of the world’s busiest sea-lanes within easy reach. They have a ready pool of recruits, desperate for a share of the millions that they garner from ransoming merchant ships and their crews. And they have had the time and space to get better at piracy, obtaining faster boats and establishing onshore bases – mostly in northern Somalia.

But piracy in Somalia, and the associated abductions, just may have seen its heyday. In the view of John Steed, former head of the UN Counter Piracy unit, Tuesday’s rescue is “potentially a turning point. The international community is saying enough is enough, and the Somali government and regional administration realize that piracy is preventing them from receiving the aid and support their people need.”

Tim Hart of Maritime and Underwater Security Consultants, which is based in the U.K., concurs. “This U.S. Special Forces operation will send a clear message to pirate gangs that states are prepared to take a more robust approach to their actions,” he told CNN.

But that also brings a new element of risk, he says. “When hostages are held onshore, pirates will move captives frequently, sometimes daily, fearing such a raid. The gangs will be concerned of similar attacks and will guard their hostages more closely and aggressively.”

The number of successful hijacks has declined in the past year. In 2010 47 ships were hijacked; last year the figure was 25, according to the EU Naval Force, which co-ordinates naval patrols in the region. This year there have been nine attempted attacks but no seizures. FULL POST


Filed under: Al-Shabaab • Piracy • Somalia
US Navy rescues Iranians
A Sailor aboard a safety boat observes a boarding team from the guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd as it rescues the crew of an Iranian-flagged fishing dhow. Kidd's crew detained 15 suspected pirates, who were holding a 13-member Iranian crew hostage for the last two months, according to the members of the Iranian crew. (US Navy Photo)
January 6th, 2012
11:28 AM ET

US Navy rescues Iranians

By Larry Shaughnessy

U.S. sailors from a carrier strike group whose recent presence in the Persian Gulf drew the ire of Iranian military officials have rescued 13 of the Middle Eastern country's sailors from a hijacked fishing boat, a military spokesman said Friday.

The destroyer USS Kidd came to the aid of the ship Thursday in the North Arabian sea, near the crucial Strait of Hormuz, according to the Navy, which made a concerted effort Friday to let the world know of the help it gave the Iranians.

The rescue prompted the captain of the freed ship to offer his "sincere gratitude," according to Josh Schminky, a Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent aboard the Kidd.

"He was afraid that without our help, they could have been there for months," said Schminky

The rescue Thursday came two days after Iran said the United States should not send any more warships into the Persian Gulf. FULL POST

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Filed under: Iran • Navy • Piracy
Message in a bottle+cardboard=pirates foiled
October 11th, 2011
12:13 PM ET

Message in a bottle+cardboard=pirates foiled

CNN's Richard Allen Greene, Chris Lawrence, Claudia Rebaza, Gisella Deputato, Laura Perez Maestro and David McKenzie contributed to this report

The crew of an Italian ship seized by pirates on Monday was freed Tuesday thanks to an operation by U.S. and British troops working with the Italian military, the Italian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

Eleven pirates who hijacked the Montecristo surrendered to the troops operating under NATO's Operation Ocean Shield, the ministry said in a statement.

All crew members are safe, the ministry said.

They barricaded themselves in the engine room after throwing a message overboard in a bottle and putting up a cardboard sign to let rescuers know where they were.

They were able to retain control of the ship's steering, even though the pirates destroyed the ship's communications equipment, a NATO officer said. FULL POST