ARMED with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, dangerous Somalian pirates are holding over 100 seamen hostage including 65 Malaysians and eight vessels.
Their demand is over RM3 mil for the release of each vessel. Negotiations are now under way with a French ship skipper, a former hostage, leading the talks for Malaysia.
As a precaution, the Malaysian navy has sent a crack team to the Gulf of Aden, in the event a rescue mission needs to be mounted.
The pirates are well-armed with sophisticated weapons and boats, complete with military structure and have a fleet admiral, vice admiral and a head of financial operations.
> They have a fleet of speedboats that take off from harmless-looking trawlers before raiding unsuspecting ships
> They are armed with rocket launchers, grenade launchers, GPS and have sound knowledge of shipping lanes and routes
> Three suspected fishing trawlers with names Buruma Ocean or Arena or Athena have been identified as mother vessels supplying information to the pirates.
THE FOUR KNOWN PIRATE GANGS
1. SOMALI MARINES
2. NATIONAL VOLUNTEER COAST GUARD
3. MARKA GROUP
4. PUNTLAND GROUP
THE most powerful of them is the Somali Marines and known to be loyal to regional warlord Abdi Mohamed Afweyne. The group is said to have a capability to operate further offshore than the other groups and attack and seize ships, kidnap seamen and demand ransoms.
PIRACY in Somalia is a lucrative business, centred around drugs, weapons and human smuggling, primarily across the Gulf of Aden and back. The coast has been a major trade route for key commodities such as oil, grain and iron ore. Oil, for instance, travels from the Middle East down the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, and then to the southern regions of Africa. Along this route, ships have become targets for Somali pirates.
SOMALIA Somalia has been without a central government since 1991 and does not have the capacity to interdict pirates or patrol its coastline. Feuding warlords in the county are in fact financed by the pirates, who pay for the upkeep of the militias.