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Modern pirates are making Somalian waters the most dangerous in the world
Modern pirates are making Somalian waters the most dangerous in the world

Press Release - 05 May 2006

The politics of piracy - the first academic exploration of the dynamics of piracy

New research has shown that over 10 per cent of all reported piracy incidents occur in the waters around Somalia which are not controlled by local warlords, resulting in calls for it to be designated as a war zone.

Somalian expert, Dr Stig Jarle Hansen, based at the University of Bath, England, spent five months conducting the first political analysis of the piracy phenomenon in Somalia with Senior Analyst Atle Mesoy, from the security intelligence company Protocol, Denmark.

Dr Jarle Hansen said: “The waters around Somalia have become amongst the most pirate-infested in the world. An attempted attack on the Seabourne Spirit, a luxury cruise liner, drew the attention of the general public and the National Union of Marine, Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers (NUMAST) is currently demanding that area be designated a war zone.”

In the last year the number of attacks in Somali waters increased from two in 2004 to 35 in 2005, accounting for over 10 per cent of all reported incidents reported worldwide. Somali waters are also exposed to large scale illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste.

The complex political situation in Somalia means there is a lack of overall control over the waters and the pockets of lawlessness create opportunities for pirates and interrupt Somalia’s ability to trade internationally. If the piracy is allowed to continue a ‘if they can get away with it so can we’ attitude could lead to an increase in piracy outside Somalia, for example in neighbouring Yemen.

Dr Jarle Hansen said: “Although Somali politics are confused, it is far from as anarchic as many believe. Warlords have created zones of relative stability and the piracy attacks are, with some notable exceptions, concentrated in areas where no major factions hold control.

“Local warlords are interested in gaining power in international peace negotiations, so have a potential interest in quelling piracy in order to maintain cordial relations and informal alliances with countries such as the United States.

“There are many rumours about connections between the pirates and al-Qaeda. However belligerents in the Somali conflict actively label their enemies as al-Qaeda or partners of al-Qaeda as a way to gain support from foreign powers.

“A member of the Somaliland parliament, for example, openly claimed that the Somalilanders should ‘invent’ local al-Qaeda in order to receive money and recognition from the United States.

“There is also a booming ‘industry’ in Mogadishu of kidnapping traders of Arabic origins and attempting to sell them to Western intelligence as members of al-Qaeda or locally affiliated groups. In addition there are economic incentives amongst the newspapers for reporting such stories.

“Although there are similarities between the strategies of piracy and terrorism the essential difference is that where the pirates’ aims are purely financial, terrorists’ goals are mostly political.”

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