Piracy and Floating Armouries in the Indian Ocean: Risk or a Solution?

A modern dhow suspected of piracy

A modern dhow suspected of piracy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Riddhi K Shah
Research Associate, National Maritime Foundation (NMF), New Delh

Rising trends in piracy in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Somalia, over the last few years have forced States to adopt innovative and collaborative approaches as effective counter-measures.The once tabooed private military security companies (PMSCs) are an attractive option today, which has triggered a huge demand for it. As of 2013, close to 140 security firms reportedly operated in the Northern Indian Ocean, the bulk of which were conceived in 2011.

The modus operandi is generally to place a team of four armed contractors on each ship for a specific length of the transit; these are generally passages that have been declared as High-Risk Areas (HRA). It is when these ships carrying armed PMSC contractors enter ports that the legal complications begin. Use and transport of arms are subject to international maritime conventions and treaties. Declaration of arms onboard before entry into territorial waters is mandated by several States, while a select few choose to completely debar weapons onboard any visiting vessel. Continue reading


Drone Strikes and the Lessons of Nonlinear Science

intelligence ('cognition')  is a vector

intelligence (‘cognition’) is a vector (Photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³)

1/30/2014 @ 12:10PM |

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorist leaders has become a centerpiece of the United States’ global counter-terrorism strategy. Each new report of a strike in Pakistan, Yemen, or Somalia provides new fodder to critics, who point to civilian casualties and the resulting anger at the United States as evidence that the strategy is counterproductive in the long term. Recently, one critic, Col. Gary Anderson, USMC (ret.), raised an even more fundamental question: “Why…do we think that targeting what we consider key terrorists with drone strikes will bring down their network as a whole?”

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Are Corruption and Tribalism Dooming Somalia’s War on al-Shabaab Extremists?

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 12 Issue: 4


February 21, 2014 02:32 PM


By: Andrew McGregor


English: Flag of Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen

English: Flag of Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


An African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) soldier keeps guard on top of an armoured vehicle in the old part of Mogadishu (Source Reuters)


  After decades of conflict that have nearly destroyed the nation, Somalia now stands poised     to  make a final drive with international assistance to shatter the strength of radical al-Qaeda- associated Islamists in central and southern Somalia, but there are indications that Somalia’s leaders may be posing an even greater obstacle to Somalia’s successful reconstruction.


                                                                 Arms Embargoes and Missing Weapons



In mid-February, the UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group issued a report to the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee claiming that weapons obtained by the Somali government under a temporary easing of UN arms sanctions were being sold to Somalia’s al-Shabaab extremists in what was described as “high-level and systematic abuses in weapons and ammunition management and distribution” (Reuters, February 13). A UN arms embargo was placed on Somalia in 1992, but in the last year the Somali government has been able to obtain once-restricted small arms and other weapons such as rocket-propelled-grenades under a partial lifting of the embargo designed to help fight al-Shabaab terrorists.


Among the observations contained in the report were the following:



  • Shipments of weapons from Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda could not be accounted for.
  • The Somali government cancelled several UN inspections of armories
  • A key presidential adviser from President Hassan Shaykh Mohamud’s own Abgaal sub-clan was involved in planning weapons transfers to al-Shabaab commander Shaykh Yusuf Isse “Kabukatukade,” another member of the Abgaal.
  • A government minister from the Habr Gadir sub-clan made unauthorized weapons purchases from a Gulf state that were transferred to private locations in Mogadishu for use by a Habr Gadir clan militia.
  • The Monitoring team photographed rifles sent to Somalia’s national army for sale in the Mogadishu arms market with their serial numbers filed off (Reuters, February13; AFP, February 16).



The easing of the Somali arms embargo is scheduled to end in March. Though a final decision on its future has yet to be made, it seems likely that the easing will remain in place until a new report on arms violations is due in October. The Somali government is looking for a complete removal of the embargo, allowing it to obtain heavy weapons and sophisticated military materiel (Reuters, February 14). Continue reading

Kenya’s nervous condition and the war against Al-Shabaab


Al-Shabaab (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by George Ogola (1)

Walking into any of Nairobi’s shopping malls, hotels and supermarkets today, one is now frisked by anxious security guards with metal detectors. The city appears trapped in a suspended sense of foreboding about a big unknown. It is a city very much on edge. Kenya’s war against Al-Shabaab in Somalia passed its 100th day in January 2012, but very few know when or how it will end. The port city of Kismayu, a main target for the Kenya Defence Force (KDF), remains in Al-Shabaab’s hands. The growing sense of uncertainly over the war, coupled with militant rhetoric by Al-Shabaab about retributive action within Kenya’s territory, is increasingly unsettling nerves in the country. Many are now resigned to the fact that this is a war that will not be won militarily.

Kenya’s military intervention came following the kidnapping of a number of aid workers and foreign nationals within its territory by suspected Al-Shabaab militants in 2011. The military intervention was, however, unusual. Kenya has generally avoided open military confrontation with its neighbours despite the fact that a number of these nations have been characterised by political instability since the 1970s having a significant political, social and economic impact on Kenya. For instance, the country hosts the Dadaab refugee camp, considered the largest refugee camp in the world.(2) The camp has nearly half a million refugees, mainly of Somali origin who have escaped hunger as well as lawlessness and clan wars in their country. Other camps in the country have previously hosted refugees mainly from South Sudan.


Somalia's states, regions and districts

Somalia’s states, regions and districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This paper assesses the implications of Kenya’s involvement in the war against Al-Shabaab. It argues that while the Kenyan Government wanted to make an unambiguous statement of intent about the seriousness of the country’s commitment to protecting its borders, it did not foresee the war evolving into a broader international ideological conflict. The involvement of international jihadists in the conflict has raised the stakes in the war. Kenya must now fight a military and an ideological war. It must also fight Al-Shabaab not only outside the country but within it; a challenging prospect with no end in sight.


‘Statelessness’ in Somalia and the politics of oil in northern Kenya

The continued situation of ‘statelessness’ in Somalia and the increasing militarisation of clanist and religious militia in the country have raised the stakes regarding the Somalia problem. There are fears that the country has become an incubator for international jihadists, which has forced the hand of the United States (US) to intervene, albeit indirectly. The US has offered support for the war in the form of military training and equipment to Kenyan forces. They have also been involved in drone attacks against Al-Shabaab in Somalia.(3) This intervention has had two effects. One, it has animated fundamentalist rhetoric against the ‘invaders’, seen to include the African Union’s (AU) interventionist force, the Africa Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), meant to support the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Two, the countries involved in protecting the TFG, which include Uganda, Burundi and Ethiopia, have also received substantial military support from the US, which has raised regional anxieties.

The latter point, although less talked about, is likely to be the subject of future debate as it is silently reshaping the geopolitics of the region. The countries involved in AMISON have now significantly increased their military spending prompting talk of an arms race in the region. Indeed, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), in 2012 Uganda’s military budget for the first time surpassed Kenya’s despite the fact that the former has a much smaller economy. The country is said to have spent US$ 1.02 billion while Kenya spent US$ 735 million on military hardware in 2012.(4) If this trend continues, it will no doubt encourage a regional arms race as Kenya’s involvement in Somalia now all but legitimises increased military spending.

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Merger of al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda Official

Posted By admin On 11 Feb 2012.

clip_image001What many have suspected for a long time seems to be official.  Harakat Al-Shabaab and al Qaeda, in a video this week, formally announced their merger.  The merger raises concern in the horn of Africa and the United States.  The announcement also lends some crediance to the suspicion that al-Qaeda, through its north African partners, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, have similar linkage with Nigeria’s jihadist, terrorist group Boko Haram.

In a video message released Thursday, Mukhtar Abu al-Zubeir, the recognized leader of al-Shabaab confirmed his allegiance to al-Qaeda and its cells around the globe.  In the same video, Ayman al Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s chief, gave his blessings and salams to al-Shabaab as he welcomed them into the international cause.

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Terrorism In Africa: 2011 Review and Predictions for 2012


2011 Review of Terrorism in Africa

The past twelve months have seen increased terrorist activity in Africa leaving some not so pleasant senarios for 2012.  In fact, I would say that 2011 saw terrorist groups moving almost at will on the continent despite greater security push back than every before.  Sure, Africa’s terrorist groups are an extremely mixed bag, yet they seem poised to continue to reign havoc on citizens in their path.

Nigerian security forces killed and captured hundreds of Boko Haram loyalists in 2009 and 2010, including the summary execution of two of its leaders Alhaji Yusuf Mohammed and Alhaji Buji Foi.  Some predicted the end of Boko Haram, yet in the past twelve months Boko Haram has risen to the level of the most active terrorist group on planet Earth carrying out more frequent and deadlier bombings.  In the past the Boko Haram terrorists struck mostly in their own neighborhood of northern Nigeria, especially around Maiduguri, in 2011 they struck severe blows at security installations and the United Nations headquarters in the capital, Abuja.  They ended the year with the horrific Christmas day bombings.

Al-Shabaab continued to raise havoc and fear in East Africa, particularly in Somalia.  The al-Qaeda linked group struck often in southern villages and in Mogadishu during the year.  The most notable event was the interjection of foreign countries into the battle against al-Shabaab.  Kenya has for years had to deal with al-Shabaab in the Eastleigh district of Nairobi and in the far northern reaches of the country.  In 2011 large numbers of Kenyan troops began to cross the border to seek and destroy al-Shabaab operatives after the abduction of tourists and aid workers.  The United States re-inserted itself into Somalia through its use of drones, initially for intelligence gathering and later bombing suspected al-Shabaab staging areas.  Israel even intimated that it was willing to lend a hand in the battle against al-Shabaab.

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Pirates free crew of Italian ship, $600K ransom likely paid

Pirates make pirates.

Image by doneastwest via Flickr

November 26, 2011 8:44pm

Some $600,000 in ransom may have been paid for this weekend’s release of an Italian vessel with 15 Filipino crewmembers that Somalian pirates seized last April.

News site Somalia Report quoted sources who said the pirates released the “Rosalia D’Amato” late Friday shortly after receiving the ransom.

“Yes, my friends in Garacad area released MV Rosalia D’Amato, the Italian-flagged oil tanker last night, after a helicopter dropped a ransom. They are now on land and busy dividing the ransom,” it quoted Mohamed Ahmed, a pirate in Bari region, as saying.

“We heard that their owners paid a ransom. We are now tightening the security around Garacad and Jariban because the pirates can cause insecurity as they try to share the ransom,” Gen. Abdulaahi Yusuf, Puntland’s police officer in Jariban District told Somalia Report.

It also quoted a senior police officer in Puntland’s Jariban district, which controls Garacad village in Mudug Region, as saying the pirates have released the vessel.

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