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SHARIA LAW FOR BUCCANEERS
Pirates Sunk by Somali Islamists
August 23, 2006
Somalia 's Islamist militia has taken control of a major base of piracy north of Mogadishu. The waters off the Horn of Africa has long been a dangerous region for shipping. Now, the militants said they will put an end to the seaborne threat.
The West may have the better navy -- outfitted with all the newest high-tech toys -- but Islamist militias in Somalia seem to have the upper hand battling piracy. Last week, Somalia's Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which has spent months consolidating control over the southern part of the country, moved up the coast and took control of a town widely considered to be a base for piracy operations off the Horn of Africa.
"The actions of the pirates were unlawful, unacceptable and un-Islamic," Sheikh Said Ali, an ICU official, told the AFP news agency. "Anybody suspected of aiding pirates or being among them will be punished according to Sharia law."
The pirates, belonging to at least four different groups and based largely out of the town of Haradere some 400 kilometers north of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, had made the waters off the coast of the Horn of Africa some of the most dangerous in the world. Since March of 2005, the International Maritime Bureau has recorded 41 attempted seizures off the Somali coast -- with pirates being successful in 19 cases within almost the same time period according to the United Nations. Along with waters near Bangladesh and Indonesia, the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia ranks as one of the world's regions most prone to attacks by pirates.
Piracy in Somalia is a lucrative business and warlords had used the proceeds to fund their militias. Well armed and outfitted with high-tech navigation gear, the marauders had targeted ships carrying valuable cargoes of grain, iron ore and oil. Many of the groups had also been involved in drugs, weapons and human smuggling, mostly across the Gulf of Aden.
In November of last year, pirates took on an American cruise ship with rocket-propelled grenades. In March, two US naval ships engaged in a fire-fight with a band of buccaneers. And just last month, a group calling itself the Somali Marines -- aka the Defenders of Somali Territorial Waters -- released 25 Asian fishermen after holding them hostage for four months. The South Korean owners of a fishing boat captures on April 4 reportedly paid more than € 630,000 for the sailors' release. Twenty crewmen of a high-jacked Arabian tanker remain in custody.
The move to reign in piracy along the Somali coast has been welcomed by the UN World Food Program. Pirates had disrupted UN aid shipments to the country on more than one occasion and tradesmen had largely ceased doing business in the affected areas. According to the WFP, more than 1.4 million Somalis are suffering from hunger as a result of draught.
The ICU on Tuesday also moved to ban the export of charcoal, wild animals and scrap metal across those parts of the country under their control. Moves in the past to rein in such trade have proved largely ineffective, though without environmental or wildlife officials in the country, it is hard to measure success.
Also on Tuesday, there were reports that Ethiopian troops entered central Somalia, though they were quickly denied by Ethiopian officials. Ethiopia is a close ally of the UN backed transitional Somali government which has recently lost ground to the advancing Islamist militias. Somalia has been without an effective central government since Mohamed Siyad Barre was overthrown in 1991.
Source: SPIEGEL ONLINE