Al-Shabaab: On Pirates
April 2, 2010 4 Comments
For the last few days, Mogadishans here have been fuming with anger; they are angry with the pirates. Though majority of Somalis supported their adventures as they hijacked ships from the sea, now it seems that the pirates have veered a few knots off course.
More than a week ago, a group of pirates hijacked 10 ships from the Somali coast through a series of co-ordinated attacks. The unusual thing this time is that all the ships were Somali-owned and belonged to a group of Somali businessmen. This is what has infuriated the Somali public.
The issue sparked a heated debate on radio stations across Mogadishu and the indignant cries of the public filled the airwaves.
For the first time also Al-Shabaab, the Islamist group controlling much of Southern Somalia, spoke out about the pirates in public. Angered by the pirates’ actions as well as the foreseeable consequences their actions may have on the stability of the regions they govern, Al-Shabaab assured the public that these actions were not happening with their connivance and demanded the pirates to release the ships. Enunciating their stance on the matter, Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Raage said at a press conference:
‘We have heard that that the pirates have hijacked some vessels belonging to the poor Somalis who are already being oppressed by AMISOM crusaders. We deplore these acts, for it goes against the conscience to rob poor innocent civilians of their much needed daily provisions.
While before you claimed to be protecting the sea from the infidels who were stealing our resources and preventing you from fishing, we now see that your actions have gone against all that you previously claimed. We ask you respect the Somali public and release the vessels to their owners immediately.’
The response of Al-Shabaab comes at a time when the spokesman of the pirates, Khalif Osman, spoke to a radio station earlier to justify why they have decided to attack Somali-owned ships this time.
‘We took these vessels because we don’t want the Christian forces of AMISOM to reap benefits from our goods. We are against the presence of these Christians and we don’t want any ships docking where they control [Mogadihu port].
We are sorry for hijacking ships headed for Kismayo and we will release them within a few hours, but we will not release the ships headed for Mogadishu or Mombassa because they are supporting the infidels occupying our country.’
A strange and a sudden divergence in the politics of the pirates it seems; they were money-hungry buccaneers but now they have become entangled in Somali politics too and already began using the religion card to justify their actions. Somali politics is a messy business and this could signal their end!
Despite the view of the western world that the Islamists and the pirates are closely inter-linked and work together towards mutual gains, they seem to share nothing in common and have entirely different perspectives towards Somalia.
Al-Shabaab has previously banned the pirates from operating in places under their administration, but this is the first time that they officially renounced their action in public.
We will wait and see how the pirates respond.
It seems that the pirates are enjoying a wave of success lately. They have 10 Somali-owned ships, a UAE vessel; Zechuhtsai, a Taiwanese ship; a Panama-flagged Filipino ship en route to Jebel Ali; a Turkish Ship 1,100 nautical miles off the Somali coast and an Irish tourist boat. All in all, it is estimated that about 16 vessels, with more than 100 crew members, have been seized by pirates in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean since the beginning of March this year.