[dehai-news] (Telegraph, UK) Islamic militants 'attack' pirates over hijacked Saudi tanker


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From: Biniam Tekle (biniamt@dehai.org)
Date: Fri Nov 21 2008 - 08:46:33 EST


 Somali piracy: Islamic militants 'attack' pirates over hijacked Saudi
tanker Fears were growing for the safety of the 25 crew on board the
hijacked supertanker Sirius Star moored in Somali waters on Friday as fierce
factional fighting and political violence erupted across Somalia.

By Tim Butcher, Middle East Correspondent
Last Updated: 1:39PM GMT 21 Nov 2008
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Armed Islamic militants were reported to have entered the port of Haradheere
close to where the ship is moored and home to many of the pirates behind her
hijacking.

A spokesman for the Islamists said his group was angry pirates had attacked
a ship owned by Muslims. The Sirius Star is owned by a Saudi-controlled
company.

"The Islamists say they will attack the pirates for hijacking a Muslim
ship," an unnamed local tribal elder said.

It is common for Somali pirates to booby-trap vessels they have seized
raising the prospect of the Sirius Star being blown up if Islamists start a
firefight with those who seized her.

Two of the crew are British, Peter French, 44, from County Durham, and James
Gray from Strathclyde, in Scotland.

Yet more political violence gripped the war-ravaged capital of Somalia,
Mogadishu, more than a hundred miles south of Haradheere.

In one clash at least seventeen people died when a fierce firefight erupted
as a militant Islamists attacked the home of a local government official.

And other armed Islamists continued their advance on the city hoping to oust
the transitional government installed there with western diplomatic backing
and the support of the Ethiopian army.

With Ethiopia starting to pull back its troops the way now seems clear for
Somalia to be completely overrun by a theocratic militia espousing radical
Islam.

The confused security situation on the ground in Somalia raised a new set of
problems for negotiators trying to secure the release of the ship on behalf
of its owners, Vela International Marine.

And it reduced considerably any chance of a rescue operation by foreign
naval powers to try to win back control of the ship.

The role of Islamists in Somali piracy is ambiguous. While some Islamic
leaders condemn the practice others are more tolerant, not least because
they can receive a share of ransoms paid to win the ship's freedom.

The Sirius Star's hijacking has raised concern that fresh economic problems
will be heaped on the already damaged global economy.

Large shipping companies have already begun to re-route ships away from the
approaches to the Suez Canal, where Somali pirates operate, and around the
Cape of Good Hope at the southern end of Africa.

Such a strategy inevitably adds to inflationary pressure in Europe and the
developed world as the additional transport costs are passed on to
consumers.

The only strategy left to foreign powers appears to increase naval escort
capability around Somali waters. India today indicated it was planning to
send more warships although it declined to say how many.

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