Indian Navy captures 23 Yemeni and Somali pirates [Archives:2008/1216/Local News]

December 15 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SANA'A, Dec. 14 ) The Indian Navy announced Saturday that it arrested as many as 23 Somali and Yemeni pirates who attacked a merchant vessel in the Gulf of Aden.

In a statement distributed to media outlets, a naval spokesman declared that Indian Special Forces boarded a ship carrying an Ethiopian flag after receiving a distress call from a shipping vessel.

The Indian Navy said that 12 Somalis and 11 Yemenis surrendered, adding that all the pirates and their weapons have been handed over to the relevant authorities, and indicated that the Indian warship will continue patrolling the Gulf of Aden.

Last month, the Indian Navy said it destroyed a boat used by pirates near the Somali coast. The U.S. Department of Defense warned on Friday that the problem of piracy in the Horn of Africa cannot be resolved by the use of force.

In the meantime, U.S. officials began Friday circulating a draft resolution in the UN Security Council with the intention of enhancing efforts to fight piracy along the Somali coast by allowing foreign forces to attack pirates in their land bases.

U.S. Department of Defense spokesman Bryan Whiteman refused to say whether U.S. forces are ready to launch military operations if the UN Security Council approves the draft resolution submitted by Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to visit the UN Security Council on Tuesday to join her counterparts from UN member states in a meeting on fighting piracy.

U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the UN Alexander Wolf said, “There is good solidarity in the council, plus a consensus on the necessity of dealing with piracy and thwarting the phenomenon by all the available means.”

“With regard to the threat posed by pirates to international navigation and the Somali government, we will spare no effort in dealing with the problem. And any military operation on the ground should be accepted by the Somali government,” Wolf told journalists.

Yet fears of civilian casualties and questions of national sovereignty have undermined widespread support for foreign military operations within Somali territory.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates added on Friday that the U.S. also lacks the necessary intelligence information to wage a war on pirates in Somali territory.

“Through the information we obtained recently, we are not in a position to launch such operations, as we still need accurate intelligence information to identify who stands behind piracy,” he said at the Regional Security Conference in Bahrain.

Hinting that two or three families support pirates to attack vessels along the Somali coastline, Gates said, “If we could identify these families, we will be able to launch operations under the UN supervision.”

As a result, the mandate of foreign military forces remains limited solely to the protection of shipping vessels.

Ransom payments to pirates opposed

UN diplomats who had access to the draft resolution said it focused on taking all the necessary measures including air strikes to attack pirates in their land bases and called for establishing a central body to share intelligence about pirates in the region and prevent paying ransoms to them.

The draft resolution also suggested that states, authorized by Somalia, may take all necessary procedures within the Somali territory to arrest those who use Somali for piracy purposes.

According to the London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Somali sources maintain that the American project is intended to enable U.S. intelligence agents to officially pursue members of al Qaeda currently seeking refuge along the Somali coast.

The resolution is privately opposed by certain diplomats who hold the view that the UN Security Council has been traditionally unwilling to offer the resources necessary to ensure stability in Somalia.

International piracy conference

An international conference on piracy began on Wednesday in the Kenyan capital city of Nairobi. The two-day conference, sponsored by the UN, brought together officials from more than 40 countries, as well as representatives from regional and international organizations. On the first, technical experts discussed the issue, and ministerial-level meetings were held on Thursday.

The conference sought to develop an improved approach to pursuing, arresting, and charging pirates. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime is reported to have proposed a $1.3 million program to enhance justice and law enforcement efforts in Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, and Yemen.

The meeting began just one day after the European Union outlined a new security mission off the coast of Somalia. Operation Atalanta joins existing deployments from NATO, Russia, and other countries to combat a sharp rise in piracy in the area in recent months.

Meanwhile, the German government approved a deployment of up 1,400 troops and one naval vessel for the mission. The German parliament is expected to vote on the deployment by December 19.

An official with the East African Seafarers' Association, Andrew Mwangura, said that international efforts would have little lasting impact without involving the local population in Somalia.

“If you are not going to involve the local community