Kenya didn’t go into Somalia looking for pirates. Its target is Al Shabaab militants. But Al Shabaab is intricately (if not directly) involved in the pirate industry, and the pressure on them has put huge pressure on the pirates’ supply lines. It’s also made the pirates wonder if they might be targeted next. As a result, they’re trying to offload their ill-gotten gains.
“Pirates are keener than before to make sure negotiations for the release of at least nine vessels held in Somalia are completed,” said a manager at shipping agent based in Mombasa, who wished to remain anonymous, speaking to Business Daily. “It is clear the trend is due to the military operation in Somalia.”
One vessel, the Algerian MV Blida, was initially held for a ransom of $6 million after being hijacked at the beginning of this year with 27 crew on board. After the Kenyan incursion, this demand was brought down to $3.5 million. This was paid and the vessel freed.
Piracy in Somalia is a huge industry, with estimates valuing it at anywhere between $4.9 billion and $8.3 billion. Most pirates operate in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, which has not been targeted by either the Kenyan forces or the African Union mission based in Mogadishu. However, the pirate menace has spread further south into Al Shabaab areas as well. DM
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