November 18, 2008
Chaos on and off Somalia’s shores


AUDIO: Jane Campbell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s fifth fleet stationed in Bahrain, discusses the situation in Somalia and the Navy’s role in protecting ships.

People flee the Somali capital of Mogadishu, where Islamist forces have launched attacks against the government.

On Saturday, pirates seized a Saudi supertanker holding $100 million in crude oil —  the largest vessel ever hijacked by pirates, reflecting their boldness and heightened ambitions.

On Tuesday, the ship anchored in Harardhere, a pirate stronghold in Somalia.

As the piracy threat escalates — costing the maritime industry billions and putting the lives of hostages in danger — bloggers around the world are assessing the causes and asking what the international community can do.

The surge in piracy stems in part from violence onshore, where Islamist forces continue to fight a Western-backed government.

The U.S. supported Ethiopia’s 2006 intervention in Somalia, which helped end Islamist rule, but Ethiopian troops who once supported the transitional Somali government are now withdrawing.

“The Nairobi Chronicle” blog expresses frustration that “the international community does not see the link between piracy in Somalia and the impotence of the transitional government,” and blames the Western powers that helped oust the Islamist government.

A writer at the “East Africa Forum” blog says that pirates seek a lucrative alternative to the poverty and violence onshore, asking “Why stay on land and fight Ethiopia’s occupying forces (and for what?) when one can rule the seas for riches?”

The “Justus for All” blog writes that international bodies can mitigate piracy by addressing Somalia’s onshore issues.

The Islamist forces claim they can stop piracy, as they attempted to do during the brief period of rule by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in 2006.

David Axe of the “War is Boring” blog writes that given the current violence and piracy, some Somalis might welcome the return of Islamist control.

Frank Pope writes in an editorial for The Times Online that because shipowners see pirates as businessmen — with an emphasis on profit rather than violence — they are hesitant to arm guards, which could potentially lead to gun battles.

National governments, too, often prefer to pay pirates ransom. “The American Empire” blog argues that these governments and U.S. Navy act “more like international lawyers than warriors” and argues that order can be restored through internationally coordinated military action — headed by China and the U.S., who both have interests in Africa.

The “Good Read” blog writes that international governments have been more successful in coordinating the fight against pirates in southeast Asia, urging swift resolution of military, legal and technical issues in Somalia.

For more on piracy and violence in Somalia, see our ongoing coverage.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user ISN Security Watch under a Creative Commons license.




the only solution is to seek functional government for Somali. The world should worry for Somali People not for the captured shipd


100 billion?


How do you just sneak away with a SUPER TANKER? The thing is three times the size of an aircraft carrier. How hard could it be to get it back?

Can’t they just give Blackwater a ring and ask them to bring the tanker back?

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