The Ukrainian vessel was heading for the Kenyan port of Mombasa loaded down with rocket-propelled grenades, anti-aircraft guns and 30 Russian T-72 tanks.
“They really hit the jackpot this time,” said a regional arms expert. “There is not much they can do with the tanks, but the RPGs and the Zu-23 anti-aircraft guns will soon find their way into Somalia’s arms markets.
“These are the sort of weapons that fighters in Somalia really like.”
Almost 60 vessels have been attacked this year as armed gangs of pirates plunder the seas off Somalia.
Its 2,300-mile coastline offers rich pickings for the modern-day buccaneers, who use AK-47s and RPGs rather than the cutlasses and flintlock pistols of romantic imagination.
In a country already awash with weapons, yesterday’s haul will only worsen a bloody conflict that has escalated in the past month as Islamist insurgents battle government troops and their Ethiopian allies.
An international coalition of navies has so far failed to stem the trade, which brings in as much as $1.5 million (Â£800,000) per ship.
The Ukrainian foreign ministry said today that theÂ Faina’s captain had radioed maritime authorities to say that three cutters with armed men were approaching his vessel at high speed before communications were lost. Her cargo was destined for South Sudan’s government.
It brings the number of ships held by the buccaneers to 14, with 300 crew members held hostage.
They are being held around the tiny fishing village of Eyl in Puntland, a semi-autonomous region of Somalia.
At times it seems as if the pirates can act with impunity. Earlier this week the Danish navy freed 10 pirates it had captured at sea, saying they had insufficient evidence to prosecute them.
But at the same time French officials have filed preliminary charges of hijacking and kidnapping against six suspected pirates captured earlier this month. Commandos snatched the six in a daring raid to free a French couple seized as they sailed their yacht along the Somali coast towards the Suez Canal.
They are currently awaiting trial in a French prison. Six naval vessels are currently patrolling the waters around the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean as part of an international task force to tackle piracy.
However commercial shipping companies have criticised the mission for failing to make a difference.
Lieutenant Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for Combined Task Force 150, based in Bahrain, said that the naval vessels were having an impact since setting up a safe corridor for shipping four weeks ago.
“We have deterred pirate attacks â€“ 12 in the past month â€“ so we are having an impact,” he said.
“But this is an international problem and needs an international solution. It will take more than the six or seven ships we have in 2.4m square miles of sea.”
Meanwhile, the Canadian navy has said that it will continue to escort emergency shipments of food into Mogadishu.
Its frigate,Â HMCS Ville de Quebec, was due to return to the Mediterranean tomorrow but will spend another month ensuring that desperately needed supplies can reach Somalia.
The World Food Programme of the United Nations had given warning that its deliveries would cease if an escort could not be found.
Law of the sea
On the high seas, or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State, every State may seize a pirate ship or aircraft, or a ship or aircraft taken by piracy and under the control of pirates, and arrest the persons and seize the property on board.
Article 105, UN Convention on the Law Of The Seas 1982 (UNCLOS)
Not just a problem for Penzance: “The Royal Navy, once the scourge of brigands on the high seas, has been told by the Foreign Office not to detain pirates because doing so may breach their human rights. Warships patrolling pirate-infested waters, such as those off Somalia, have been warned that there is also a risk that captured pirates could claim asylum in Britain” on the grounds that if sent back to Somalia they could face cruel punishments such as beheading or hand-chopping. (Marie Woolf, Times Online,Â Apr. 13).
Russia sending heavily-armed patrol ship to Somali coast to combat piracy
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!
And, lest anyone think Somali “pirates” have naught to do with jihad, thisÂ storyÂ says otherwise. “Russian Navy ship sent to combat pirates,” by Scott Bevan forÂ ABC News, September 26 (thanks to Sylvia):
The Russian Navy’s central command has sent the patrol ship, Neustrashimy, to the coast of Somalia after pirates seized a Ukranian vessel in the region.
For the record, piracy as a jihadist activity has a pedigree at least as old as the Barbary conflicts with Europe and the new United States, and the Islamic slave raiding pirates vividly described in Giles Milton’s bookÂ White Gold.
Navy spokesman Captain Igor Dygalo, says the Neustrashimy, which belongs to the Baltic Fleet, has been sent as part of Russia’s aim to combat piracy.[…]Â
The patrol ship Neustrashimy left the Baltic Fleet’s main base in Baltiisk on September 24 to ensure a naval presence in oceanic and maritime areas, Captain Dygalo said.
The number of attacks by Somali pirates on civilian vessels belonging to different countries hasÂ increased recently.
Pirates hijacked Ukraine’s vessel Faina under Belize’s flag en route to Kenya in neutral waters not far from Kenya’s coast on Thursday (local time).
Some reports indicate that the Ukrainian ship was carrying military hardware, including nearly 30 T-72 tanks and spare parts for armoured hardware.
The patrol ship Neustrashimy isÂ equipped with anti-submarine and air defence missile systems, a 100 millimetre artillery gun, torpedo systems and rocket-assisted bomb launchers.
“Pirates” be warned.
It also has a Kamov Ka-27 ship-based helicopter on board.