Archive for the ‘-NEWS’ Category

Japan and UNODC Join Asian Piracy Battle   1 comment

maritime police
By Noel Tarrazona
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is joining several countries in Asia to battle ISIS-inspired pirates in the Sulu and Celebes seas.

This development came when UNODC and Japan forged a new partnership in Vienna to develop counter measures to address the increasing maritime threats in the region.

38 cases of piracy were recorded in 2016 that included abduction of seafarers from vessels in the Sulu and Celebes Seas. Of the 38 attacks, 21 involved the abduction of sailors for ransom.

Japan has decided to get involved, as there is a growing concern from Tokyo officials that maritime terrorists could slipped into the nation, which will host the Olympics and Paralymics in 2020.

Under the new arrangement, UNODC is expected to bring its anti-maritime piracy campaign expertise from Somalia to the region. The U.N. body has developed effective measures for identifying and pursuing pirate speed boats after having sporadic encounters with Somalia pirates. The collaborators will also deploy maritime police to work closely with their counterparts in terror-affected ASEAN countries.

The UNODC is a U.N. body that deals with the world’s most pressing concerns such as drug abuse prevention, international organized crime,  terrorism and economic crime. It has been addressing these global threats since 1999 by working with host governments.

Earlier, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia  organized the Indomaphil (Indonesia Malaysia Philipines), a maritime security agreement to hold joint trilateral naval patrols in the Sulu and Celebes Seas. This new agreement has allowed the ASEAN countries’ naval assets to enter any of the countries’ maritime territory when pursuing terrorists.

The Indonesia defense department reported 1,200 ISIS-inspired militants are operating in the Philippines and further warned that these militants can move to different Asean countries in less than 24 hours via sea connections.

Aside from the UNODC intervention to battle piracy, the U.S. government also provided two latest 208B piston-engine CESSNA reconnaissance aircrafts worth $33 million that are now being used to monitor the movements of pirates in Sulu and Celebes Seas.

Despite these collaborations, terror threats remain active and elusive because of the reported spill over of terror attacks to major areas in  the Southern Philippines like Marawi City and Maguindanao province. The ASEAN intelligence community has also reported that piracy remains a present and future threat to ASEAN security.

Despite warning from the ASEAN countries governments and maritime watchdogs to avoid the Sulu and Celebes Seas, commercial vessels continue to prefer the route to ship goods  from Australia to Japan, China and other Asian markets, because it’s the shortest route and therefore saves fuel.

The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combatting Piracy and Armed Robbery (ReCAAP) reported that $40 billion of cargo passes through the Sulu and Celebes Seas. It also reports that this region has the fastest piracy growth rate in Asia.

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Posted September 9, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Royal 16 Crew Member Escapes Abu Sayyaf   1 comment

Philippines soldiersfile photo

By MarEx

A Vietnamese crewmember kidnapped from the bulk carrier Royal 16 last November has escaped and been rescued by military forces in the Philippines.

Do Trung Hieu, along with five others, was kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf terrorists after the 5,610dwt Vietnamese bulk carrier was boarded by 10 armed men off Sibago Island in the Philippines. The abductees included the master, the deck officers, the bosun and an A/B.

Hieu, 33, is the second seafarer to be rescued without ransom being paid. Hoang Vo, 22, escaped from his captors in June. The bodies of another two of the crew were found decapitated in July, and one other was reportedly killed by gunfire, leaving the whereabouts of one seafarer unknown.

“The rescue was a result of the maximized conduct of intelligence operations and the successful airstrike mission launched by our troops on the ground,” said task force group commander Col. Juvymax Uy. “Do Trung Hieu was rescued by troops as the bandits were forced to leave their stronghold, which was being targeted and overrun by our operating troops.”

The Philippines military says that 18 hostages remain in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf in the southern region of the country, 14 of whom are foreigners.

Abu Sayyaf formed in the 1990s with money from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network. The militants have divided into factions with one, that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, battling security forces since May in Marawi, the largely Catholic nation’s leading Islamic city.

Last week, the Philippines military killed Salvador Muktadil, an infamous Abu Sayyaf leader linked to several high-profile abductions, but the militants continue to occupy parts of the southern city despite an on-going U.S.-backed military offensive. As of Sunday, 583 militants, 129 soldiers and 45 civilians have been killed, and dozens are believed to be held hostage. Nearly 400,000 people have been displaced.

President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the entire southern region of the nation under military rule. The U.S. and Australia have been providing intelligence help, and Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore have vowed to intensify efforts to stop the spread of terrorists across regional borders.

Posted August 25, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

OCEANS BEYOND PIRACY   Leave a comment

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Posted August 20, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Somali Pirates Sentenced to Six Months Plus Time Served   1 comment

altFile image: Indian sailors on the INS Tir arrest the hijackers of the Prantalay 11, a related anti-piracy operation

By MarEx 

On Friday, a court in Mumbai sentenced the 15 alleged pirates from the Prantalay 14 hijacking to six months in prison plus time served. The Somali nationals were accused of taking control of the Prantalay, a Thai fishing boat, for use as a pirate mother ship.

In January 2011, the accused attempted to board a merchant ship off the coast of Kerala, 1,400 nm from Somali shores. The vessel sent a distress call and the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard responded. 10 of the 25 pirates aboard the boat died during the firefight that followed, a skirmish known in India as the “Battle of Minicoy Island.”

The 15 surviving Somali nationals were detained and accused of kidnapping, kidnapping for ransom (a separate offense), attempted murder and arms-related charges. They were acquitted of kidnapping for ransom because the former hostages could not be brought before the court to substantiate the charges.

The accused were found guilty on the remaining charges and sentenced seven years and a small fine. As they had spent six and a half years in jail while their case proceeded through Indian courts, the men only have six months left to serve. They will be deported to Somalia after they have completed their terms.

“The offenders have been given a lesson that in India there is rule of law and that the offenders are brought to justice,” Special public prosecutor Ranjeet Sangle told the Times of India. “From 2011, since the pirates were arrested, the entire piracy operation in the western waters of India has come down . . .  now, I believe that it will go down to zero.”

Sentencing awaits for an additional 103 alleged pirates who were detained by Indian forces in 2011, the peak year for Somali piracy in the western Indian Ocean.

Posted August 14, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Nigerian Pirates Abduct Five Seafarers from Freighter   1 comment

oya1The Oya 1 (undated file image courtesy Cape West Logistics)
 

By MarEx 

Moroccan media report that the general cargo vessel Oya 1 (ex name Celia) was boarded by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea on the night of July 29. The attackers reportedly abducted two Moroccan officers, Ahmed Janani and Abdelkader Benhala, and three other crewmembers.

The ICC IMB Piracy Reporting Centre confirmed that the Nigerian Navy responded to an attack on a general cargo ship 15 nm southwest of Bonny Island at about the same time. IMB said that it was reported that some crew members were missing, and that the Nigerian Navy towed the vessel into port for an investigation.

Nigeria pushes back on maritime piracy

The Nigerian Navy recently extended a surge operation to counter attacks on merchant shipping in the Gulf of Guinea, which spiked last year with multiple hijackings and kidnappings. The service’s chief of staff, Vice Adm. Iboke-Ete Ibas, said that the Nigerian Navy had reduced the count of successful piracy incidents by 90 percent year-on-year for the period from January through June. “This improvement in security situation within Nigeria’s offshore maritime domain is attributable to the intensive patrols and efforts of Operation Tsare Teku,” he said. “The Nigerian Navy remains absolutely committed to creating a secure and enabling maritime environment for economic activities to thrive toward national growth,”

The waters off Nigeria continue to lead for maritime kidnappings, with 31 crewmembers abducted in the year to date, according to the IMB. The Gulf of Guinea also leads for armed attacks on vessels. Nigeria’s legislature has taken note: the leader of the Nigerian house of representatives, Yakubu Dogara, recently introduced a bill to increase funding for anti-piracy operations. “The increasing level of attacks and violence in the gulf of Guinea have given Nigeria and other countries in the sub-region very damaging and negative image,” he told Nigeria’s The Cable. “The major component of this bill is the creation of the maritime security fund . . . that will empower the Navy to secure our waters as part of its primary responsibility.”

Posted August 4, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

Philippine Forces Hunt Terrorists at Sea   1 comment

suluSulu Sea (Image credit Noel Tarrazona)

By Noel Tarrazona

As fighting between terrorists and government forces in Mindanao continues, the Philippine government has rolled out countermeasures to prevent the escape of members of the ISIS-inspired Maute group via maritime routes. Manila has announced two major maritime security initiatives to prevent ISIS-inspired militants from fleeing to neighboring islands near the Malaysian and Indonesian borders.

Making its first move, the Philippine government signed a maritime security agreement with Indonesia and Malaysia to hold joint trilateral naval patrols in the Philippine-Malaysia-Indonesia maritime border area.

Under the joint naval collaborative program, called Indomaphil, the three nations agreed that their naval assets will be allowed to enter any of the three countries’ maritime territory when pursuing terrorist suspects. In a joint statement, the three nations said that “the collaboration is to prevent extremists from making Southeast Asia or any country a base for their operations.”

The Philippine military says that the terrorists in Marawi are not only Filipinos. Some of them were reported to be nationals from Malaysia, Indonesia and Middle East. Defense officials say that one of the challenges of fighting terror in Southeast Asia is that the terrorists can move to three different countries in less than 24 hours.

Domestic Strategy

Aside from the ASEAN collaboration,  the Philippine government  is also intensifying security measures in Philippine ports to thwart terror attacks from the local terrorist group.

The demand for intense security developed when three members of the ISIS-inspired Maute group attempted to use seaports for their escape. With close monitoring and intensified port security, the three suspects were arrested in the port of Iloilo, Panay on board a ship arriving from Mindanao. The Philippine Coast Guard alerted the sea marshall upon receiving intelligence reports that suspected terrorists were on board the ship and the suspects were eventually caught.

Commodore Joel Garcia, officer-in-charge of the PCG attributed the success of the arrested suspects to the vigilance of shipping companies. “Security will always be dependent on the cooperation of shipping companies to the Coast Guard,” Garcia told Philippine journalists.

While countermeasures to prevent terrorist violence on the sea are already in place, the Coast Guard will also be deploying manpower in tourist beach resorts that could be a potential target of terrorists’ kidnapping and bombing attacks.

But despite the intensified security measures on the Philippine-Malaysia-Indonesia border, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery (ReCAAP) has warned shipowners to reroute their vessels to avoid identified threats in the region.

ReCAAP was referring to the Sulu and Celebes seas, where two Vietnamese sailors were abducted and later beheaded by suspected terrorists after the victims’ families failed to deliver a ransom. ReCAAP reports that about 59 crew members have been abducted in the Sulu Celebes seas and the Malaysian border of Eastern Sabah since last year, and the abductors have been reported to demand huge ransoms for the release of their captives. The Asian media report that the same abductors have raked in at least $12 million from their maritime kidnapping and extortion activities in the region.

Posted July 27, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS

CNN Exclusive: Somali pirate kings are under investigation for helping ISIS and al-Shabaab   Leave a comment

(CNN)In the vital transport corridors of the troubled Gulf of Aden, an old but dangerous adversary has returned to the seas — pirates.
But they may not be acting alone.
Four years since piracy attacks reached their peak, CNN sources have found threats on Somali waters are broader than ever.

Pirate kingpins

CNN has learned that the United Nations and the United States are investigating at least two pirate kingpins for providing material support to terror groups.
That material support includes helping factions of the two terror groups, al Qaeda linked al-Shabaab and Somalia’s ISIS faction, who ironically despise each other, smuggle weapons and perhaps even people across the Gulf of Aden.
One of them is Mohamed Garfanje, the kingpin of the Hobyo-Haradhere Piracy Network, which thrived in the tiny fishing village of Haradhere — often considered the birthplace of modern Somali piracy.
Garfanje is also one of the main suspects wanted for the kidnapping of American-German journalist Michael Scott Moore in 2012.
Mohamed Garfanje

Moore tells CNN he met Garfanje during the harrowing two years and a half he spent as an hostage.
According to three sources CNN has spoken to, Garfanje is believed to have helped al-Shabaab smuggle weapons and ammunition into Somalia.
He is also still carrying out pirate attacks, according to leading piracy watchdog organization, Oceans Beyond Piracy.
“Garfanje should be in jail,” Moore said. “If it’s true that he and Bakeyle (another pirate) are out catching ships again, then they should be rounded up by authorities and prosecuted.”
Another pirate kingpin, whom CNN is not naming, is believed to have been smuggling arms and people to ISIS’ small but worrisome faction in Somalia, based in Qandala, in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, according to UN and US sources.
UN sources say he has assisted ISIS with logistics and has a relationship with Abdulkadir Mumin, the leader of ISIS in Somalia.
Oceans Beyond Piracy researchers believe he is behind some of the recent piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden.

Piracy spikes and US response

The Gulf of Aden off Somalia has been plagued by crimes at sea for years. It has been destabilized by a devastating, decades-long civil war on land.
After a four-year lull, more than 12 maritime piracy attacks have occurred off the coast of Somalia so far this year, according to this report by Oceans Beyond Piracy.
The recent pirate attacks have attracted comment from the US military. During US Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ visit to the US base in Djibouti, he spoke on the rise in piracy in the region.
Mattis told reporters that the US military was monitoring the situation, but he added that he didn’t see the US playing a “big military role.”
This could change if those pirates are proven to be substantially aiding terrorists, says Joshua Meservey, a senior policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank that has provided policy recommendations to President Donald Trump’s administration.
Meservey told CNN that the US would have an incentive to disrupt the pirate networks if it “gains conclusive evidence that pirates are actively helping al-Shabaab, such as by smuggling weapons to them.”
Jason Warner a professor at the US Military Academy, West Point, in the academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, told CNN: “At the very worst, there is active collusion; at the very least Shabaab gets a cut of the money from pirates emanating from Shabaab-held ground. There have also been instances of Shabaab taxing the pirates.”
“With the current trends indicating that piracy is once again picking up off the Horn of Africa, these relationships between pirates and Shabaab will likely re-emerge as an important flashpoint,” Warner said.
“I think Trump does care about Somalia,” said Meservey. “He is clearly focused on terror threats, and al-Shabaab remains an effective, active terrorist organization.
“It also once attracted dozens of Americans to join it, and the fear is that it could do so again. I think the trend that began under Obama towards a more active military role in Somalia will continue with Trump,” he added.
edition.cnn.com

Posted July 11, 2017 by rrts in -NEWS