Eight Tug Crewmembers Kidnapped Off Nigeria   1 comment

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By MarEx 

On Wednesday morning, pirates boarded an unnamed “offshore tug” in the Gulf of Guinea and kidnapped eight crewmembers.

According to the ICC International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre, the Nigerian Navy responded to the incident but the attackers managed to escape with their captives. One crewmember was injured in the attack and was evacuated by helicopter.

It was the tenth serious incident in the Gulf of Guinea this year – and the second within an hour. About 45 minutes earlier and about 50 nm further offshore, nine pirates in a skiff approached a tanker and opened fire. The tanker’s crew sounded the alarm, started the fire pumps and brought non-essential personnel into the citadel, while the bridge team put on more turns and conducted evasive maneuvers. The skiff aborted the attack.

Hijackings off Somalia and on the southeastern margin of the Sulu Sea have gained most of the attention on piracy in recent months, but the waters off the Niger River Delta are still a dangerous region for maritime kidnappings. The IMB warns that Gulf of Guinea pirates are often well armed, violent and capable, with the means to carry out attacks up to 170 nm off the coast. The most serious incidents involve multi-day hijackings, cargo theft, crew injuries and (increasingly) the abduction of seafarers for ransom. In the waters off Brass, Bonny Island and Port Harcourt – the area of Wednesday’s incidents – the IMB warns that there has been “a noticeable increase in attacks / hijackings / kidnappings of crews.” The center advises mariners to take additional precautions in these waters.

Posted April 22, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Philippine Forces Thwart Pirate Attack   1 comment

AFPFile image courtesy AFP

By MarEx 

On Tuesday morning, the Philippine Coast Guard foiled an attempted pirate attack on the cargo vessel Doña Anabelle. The attempted boarding occurred off Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte – over 50 nm to the north of the Sulu archipelago, the epicenter of recent pirate attacks in the region.

Regional police chief Billy Beltran told the Inquirer that armed fighters on two motorboats fired at the vessel off the village of Santa Maria, Siocon. Zamboanga Coast Guard Station Commander Alvin Dagale told the Philippine Sun Star that the attackers fled when military patrol vessels approached. None of the crew were injured, and the responders escorted the Anabelle for the remainder of her voyage to Zamboanga City.

Beltran said that the affiliation of the attackers is not yet known, and the incident is under investigation.

The ISIS-aligned terrorist group Abu Sayyaf (ASG) has made the waters between the Philippines and Malaysia among the most dangerous in the world for maritime piracy. The group is believed to be holding about 20 seafarers hostage, a number that has fallen in recent weeks due to a series of escapes, rescues and executions.

While its activities have been focused on the Sulu Archipelago, a group of ASG fighters recently mounted an operation on the island of Bohol, several hundred miles to the north – potentially a reflection of increasing pressure from the military and law enforcement. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is engaged in a full-scale campaign against ASG on the ground in Sulu and Basilan, and the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia have announced joint naval patrols to suppress the group’s activities in the waters between Tawi Tawi and Sabah. Japan has offered to provide the Philippines with military advisors and small pursuit boats, and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has even invited the Chinese navy and coast guard to help patrol the area.

Posted April 22, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Abu Sayyaf Beheads Captain of Philippine Fishing Vessel   1 comment

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By MarEx

Philippine officials reported Monday that fighters with the terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf have beheaded a fisherman, Noel Besconde, who was taken hostage during the hijacking of the Ramona 2 late last year. Besconde was the vessel’s captain.

“We express our sincerest condolences to the bereaved family of FB Ramona 2 captain Noel Besconde, who met untimely death in the hands of the kidnap-for-ransom group Abu Sayyaf,” said Philippine presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella in a statement. “We strongly condemn this senseless and coldblooded murder committed during the Holy Week.”

Besconde was killed on April 13, one day before Good Friday. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) believes that the murder occurred near Patikul, Jolo, but Besconde’s remains have not been found.

Unlike Abu Sayyaf’s last four hostage beheadings, which the group carried out when ransom deadlines passed, the killing appeared to be motivated by the need for mobility. “The reason why he was beheaded is that he was delaying their movement,” said Brigadier-General Cirilito Sobejana, speaking to Al Jazeera. “They are highly mobile and we are pursuing them.”

The pirates are still holding Reyjim Rocabo, the Ramona’s engineer, and crewmembers Roy Ramos and Roel Liones. In total, Philippine authorities believe that Abu Sayyaf has over two dozen hostages, including 20 seafarers who were captured during the yearlong campaign of piracy.

The Philippine military successfully thwarted an Abu Sayyaf terrorist operation on the island of Bohol last Tuesday, and ten people were killed when security forces made contact with the ASG infiltrators. Second Lieutenant Estelito Saldua, Jr. was among the four servicemembers who died in the encounter, and on Monday, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte recognized Saldua’s sacrifice with the Gold Cross medal, the nation’s third highest combat award. The governor of Batangas gave Saldua’s three brothers and sisters all scholarship awards, according to ABS CBN, and Duterte reportedly told the family that they should contact him directly if they need anything.

The municipality of Inabanga has issued a wanted poster for the remaining Abu Sayyaf fugitives on Bohol (below), including Joselito “Alih” Milloria, who is suspected of acting as the group’s local guide.

Posted April 18, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Two Somali Pirates Shot Dead   1 comment

piracyfile photo

By MarEx

Voice of America reports that foreign naval forces have shot dead two Somali pirates in international waters.

The pirates were attempting to hijack an unidentified ship near the Gulf of Aden on Saturday. Another pirate was injured during the incident.

Ahmed Abdullahi, an official with the anti-piracy force in the Puntland region, said the men were from a group of nine pirates. The others escaped.

The naval force involved was not named.

The report coincides with that from Chinese news agency Xinhua saying that a convoy sent by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) rescued a Panamanian tanker that was being attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden on Saturday.

The PLAN received a report around 9:30 p.m. Saturday Beijing Time saying that the ship Alheera was under attack by five pirates and was requesting help.

The frigate Hengyang dispatched its shipboard helicopter to the area and had driven the pirates away an hour later.

Incidents of Somali piracy have increased in recent months. The hijack of the tanker Aris 13, on March 13, was the first reported hijack of a vessel covered by IMO regulations by Somali pirates since the tanker Smyrni in May 2012.

Oceans Beyond Piracy’s analysis indicates the the number of reported failed attacks and suspicious incidents rose in 2016. Armed security teams deterred 11 attacks in 2016.

The organization says that the situation in Somalia that originally permitted piracy to flourish has not changed. This has left the door open for other forms of maritime crime, such as smuggling and trafficking.

Since the year 2000, almost 5,000 seafarers were taken hostage by Somali pirates. At the height of Somali piracy in 2010, there were over 1,000 seafarers being held hostage at the same time in Somalia.

Posted April 18, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Freed from Pirates, Hijacked Dhow Returns to Sea   1 comment

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By MarEx 

On Thursday, the Indian Navy took custody of the Indian dhow Al Kausar, which was hijacked by Somali pirates off Socotra Island on April 1. Somali security forces recaptured the dhow and freed the hostages in a series of operations and arrested as many as a dozen pirates who were involved in the kidnapping. Two of the crew were found aboard the dhow on Tuesday, and the remaining eight (or nine) were freed the following day. The Al Kausar has reportedly headed for her next destination, escorted by a vessel of the Indian Navy.

Hirsi Yusuf Barre, the mayor of Galkayo, Galmudug, told Reuters that troops surrounded 13 pirates holding nine crewmembers. He reported that 10 of the kidnappers surrendered immediately, and the final three gave up after their parents arrived and asked them to come out. In an interview with VOA Somalia, the mayor of the city of Hobyo, Abdullahi Ahmed Ali, confirmed the rescue but gave a much smaller number for the count of pirates captured.

Somali piracy is on a rebound after a five-year hiatus, with five boardings over the course of the past month. International naval patrols and shoreside security forces have enjoyed a relatively high degree of success in thwarting the recent attacks and recovering hostages quickly. No hostage fatalities have been reported.

Netherlands releases convicted pirates

According to the Repatriation and Departure Service of the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice, the Netherlands has recently deported 23 convicted Somali pirates who have completed their sentences. The men were arrested at sea by the Dutch Navy in 2012; they were taken to the Netherlands, tried and sentenced to prison time.

“Once the pirates were taken aboard the naval vessels, they were [on] Dutch ‘territory’. They were then brought here, tried and have served their sentences,” said Jannita Robberse, the service’s director, speaking to AD. “In the entire return process, much effort has been made with [our] partners.”

Posted April 15, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Senior Abu Sayyaf Leader Offers to Surrender   Leave a comment

abuRadullan Sahiron (courtesy FBI)

By MarEx 

Officials with the Philippine military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) report that Radullan Sahiron, a senior Abu Sayyaf leader who has been with the terrorist organization since the 1990s, has asked to surrender.

Sahiron, the top leader of Abu Sayyaf on the island of Sulu, is on the FBI’s most wanted terrorists list for his involvement in the 1993 kidnapping of U.S. national Jeffry Schilling. He has been on the list since 2007, and the FBI considers him to be the overall leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). The State Department has offered a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to his arrest.

Among other conditions, Sahiron does not want to be extradited to the United States if he surrenders. Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., the commander of Westmincom, said that Sahiron was motivated to give up because of his advanced age and because of the ongoing Philippine military offensive. 50 other members of the group have reportedly surrendered since last year, including 11 who gave up in Tawi-Tawi last week.

Military pursues ASG fighters in Bohol

Philippine police and military forces continue to pursue a group of five suspected Abu Sayyaf fighters in Inabanga, on the island of Bohol. Four security personnel and five terrorists were killed in a firefight on April 11, and the body of another militant was found on Thursday morning.

The dead include Muamar Askali (Abu Rami), a prominent Abu Sayyaf spokesman and subleader. General Eduardo Año, the head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said that Askali’s death was a major victory in the battle against Abu Sayyaf. “Abu Rami is a young, aggressive, and upcoming leader of the Abu Sayyaf who has the potential of being the next leader of the group,” he said.

In an interview with Rappler, Año said that he believes that Abu Sayyaf had sought to kidnap tourists on Bohol during Holy Week, the Catholic holiday that is widely observed in the Philippines. “They just want to get kidnap victims for money. Where can they get victims?,” Año said. “[They saw that] Bohol and Cebu are tourist destinations during the summer.” Given the number of boats that the fighters brought with them, Año estimated that they sought to capture 10-12 victims. The location of the attack, hundreds of miles to the north of Abu Sayyaf’s home base in the Sulu Archipelago, may be a sign that military pressure is making it more difficult for the group to engage in maritime piracy.

Posted April 15, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Chinese Forces May Have Captured Somali Pirate Leader   1 comment

yulinThe PLA(N) warship Yulin (file image)

By MarEx 

Chinese naval forces may have captured Somali pirate leader Aw Koombe during the rescue of the bulker OS 35 last weekend. China claims that its forces were responsible for recovering the OS 35 – and has even omitted the assistance provided by the Indian Navy from official statements – but so far it has not taken credit for arresting any suspects.

VOA reports that Abdikarim Salah “Aw Koombe” was left behind on the freighter by his fellow pirates and has not been seen since. Two of the attackers reportedly escaped and returned to their home village, where they told local residents that Aw Koombe and two others had not made it off the ship. Aw Koombe was the spokesperson during the Aris 13 hijacking, which ended after the intervention of Somali security forces.

Separately, on Monday, Chinese state-controlled media outlet Global Times published an editorial celebrating the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s role in rescuing the OS 35 (and in maritime security in general). It referred to the participation of other navies in regional anti-piracy efforts, but did not mention Indian assistance during Saturday’s interdiction.

“China has actively engaged in international anti-piracy operations in recent years . . . [but] the Chinese navy has not been applauded for its efforts, and instead has been subject to overwhelming suspicions,” asserted the author. “Many Western media outlets and Western strategists have maliciously hyped China’s intention of improving its naval strength . . . it is imperative for Beijing to build a powerful navy that can protect arterial maritime trade routes and defend the country’s growing international interests.”

The Indian ministry of defense emphasized its own role in the OS 35 incident. “An Indian Navy helicopter undertook aerial reconnaissance of the merchant vessel at night, and at sunrise, to sanitize the upper decks of the merchant ship and ascertain the location of pirates, if still on board,” the Indian defense ministry said. “A boarding party from the nearby Chinese Navy ship went on board the merchant ship, while the Indian Naval helicopter provided air cover for the operation.” The Hindustan Times reports that Pakistani and Italian naval vessels were also standing by.

Posted April 15, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS