Although it was only the attempt on a luxury cruise ship that made headlines, Somali pirates attacked five vessels last week, with shipping experts saying the operations were apparently directed from a mysterious “mother ship” prowling the busy Indian Ocean corridor.
Most vessels escaped, but one was commandeered, bringing to seven the number of vessels now being held captive along with their crews by pirates operating along Somalia’s coastline, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said.
Rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles were fired at the US-owned Seabourn Spirit, carrying 150 western tourists, by gunmen in two small speedboats, but the ship’s captain managed to change course and speed away. Thousands of merchant ships carrying oil and other critical coommodities pass the Somali coast to the Cape of Good Hope every year. (IOL, Nov. 12)
Meanwhile, events within Somalia are largely overlooked by the world media. Heavy fighting apparently sparked by an Islamic militia’s moves to close cinemas and video stores in Mogadishu killed at least seven people and wounded more than 12 over the past two days. Fights between gunmen loyal to Mogadishu’s strict Islamic courts and local militia defending the densely populated Yaqshid district began on Nov. 12.
Gunfire could be heard from all over Mogadishu, home to 1 million of Somalia’s 10 million people and scene of frequent street battles during 14 years of lawlessness.
“We have not opened the schools this morning, because of the shooting and heavy bullets which are falling down,” said school teacher Abdullahi Hassan. The wounded reportedly included a child hit by a bullet in the chest.
In the 14th attempt to restore central government since 1991, Somalia’s new President Abdullahi Yusuf returned from Kenya this year but has failed to establish authority. He has set up base in Jowhar outside Mogadishu due to insecurity in the capital. Rival warlords have effectively carved up the nation since ousting dictator Mohamed Siad Barre 14 years ago.
Political violence also continues. Khadar Osman Elmi, son of the second deputy speaker of the Somali parliament Osman Elmi Boqorre, was gunned down in south Mogadishu Nov. 12. Speaker Elmi, who has just defected from a Mogadishu-based faction of the new government to the Jowhar group, told reporters he believed the killing was politically motivated.
One house recently attacked by the Islamic militia was used during a recent visit by Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Gedi, who belongs to the Jowhar group of the divided transitional government. (Reuters, Nov. 13)
A court in Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland has sentenced eight people to death for killing three foreign aid workers. Seven others were sentenced to life in prison for their role in the murder of two British aid workers in 2003 and a Kenyan in 2004. Somaliland, which is not internationally recognized, broke away from Somalia after it descended into chaos following the overthrow of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. (VOA, Nov. 14)
See our last post on Somalia.