By ROBLE DIRIYE
Somalia piracy has been an international threat since 2008, and many international business ships have been hijacked by Somali pirates with huge ransoms demanded. Pirate activities were increasing until several nations communities declared war against the pirates, as a result of which, many warships were sent into Somalia’s waters. The Somali areas most affected include Galmudug state, which launched a fight against pirates in its’ region, and in the process Somalia Report took an opportunity to interview Galmudug military commander Abdiweli Hassan Hersi.
Thank you Mr Abdiweli for giving us from your precious time, please explain us how Galmudug has effected their war against piracy?
Welcome, I am very happy for your interview, and the effort that Somalia Report initiated to know what is going on in our region. As a commander of the armed forces of Galmudug, we have planned many things against pirate group. In the near future, we want to get rid of the ships which have terrorized people from Galmudug territories, both land and water. We are also planning to deploy more armed forces to the pirate stronghold towns, as we did in Hobyo district some days ago. At the same time, we are looking for those people who are working with pirates indirectly in our areas, by using a specially trained personnel in order to ensure peace within our borders. I assure you that in coming days, they will face an iron hand from our soldiers, and we won’t have mercy on them.
Are there many pirate detainees in your jails, and how do you treat them? As you said, you don’t have mercy on them?
Yes, the massive anti-piracy operations that we have carried out over the past three months, we have captured a number of pirates, and our cells are full of pirate members. Particularly our prison in southern Galkayo, which Galmudug state administrates.
On the other hand, we detain pirate members captured in war, although we do not violate their human rights, each of them faces judgement from the high court of Galmudug state. Then after judgement, we sentence them to prison as regards their specific cases. In prison, we teach them helpful skills like carpentry, building houses, welding and many other skills to be productive persons and useful to their community after their terms in prison.
Which season of the year are pirates are very active, and how have international warships currently in Somali water affected their activities?
In the early days, they were most active when a monsoon winds are blowing from the Indian Ocean, but recently most pirate activities on ocean occur when there are strong wind and high waves in the ocean, which indicates they have sophisticated equipment to enable counter weather conditions. On the other side, the international warships strongly deter pirates actions, every day they rescue at least one or more ships from the pirates. They have also capture many pirates, which has created fears for the other members of the pirate gangs. In fact pirate activities in the ocean seems to be going down day after day, but they have changed their strategies towards land, kidnapping well-wishers and aid workers, causing suffering to Somali people. This is a collective responsibility for all Somalis to join us and say no to pirates, including other mini-states like Puntland, Somaliland as well as the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to fight effectively pirates in the region.
Has Galmudug state achieved any successes in the war against pirates?
Yes, we have succeeded in most of our efforts we launched. Our soldiers liberated Hobyo town and other small cities which were strategic towns for the pirates. We also arrested and detained several pirates, and those are big achievements.
Has Galmudug attempted to free foreign hostages who are currently under the custody of pirates in the Galmudug territory, either using negotiation or force?
We have tried tirelessly to liberate those foreign hostages uncountable times by negotiating with pirate leaders, but our effort were fruitless as the pirates each time demanded huge ransoms for the release of their hostages. Now the only way forward is by using force in order to free those innocent foreigners, although whenever we tried to carry out actions to free those hostages, pirates have threatened that they will execute those foreigners.
Do you have any information about whether pirates and al-Shabaab have close links?
That is obvious, even two weeks earlier they had a meeting in Harardheere, where they discussed their similar ideology.
What do you mean by their similar ideology?
In fact, pirates and al-Shabaab are the same from my perspective. The pirates and al-Shabaab work together, as al-Shabaab are fighting on land while pirates are operating in oceans. Whereas pirates earn money for al-Shabaab interest, and much money from pirate ransoms have financed al-Shabaab military activities, apart from that portion which they use to buy more equipment and pay their expenses. As evidence of that, two weeks ago after their meeting, al-Shabaab gave custody of the two Spanish women to the pirates in Hararardhere. These women were under the custody of al-Shabaab since the time they were kidnapped from Dadab refugee camp in Kenya.
There are rumors most people in your areas are depend on money that pirates get as ransom. Is that true?
No, it’s not true. Our people are hard working and they depend on their business activities, and it is they who give and inform our police about pirates and their supporters in our region, and we could not fight them if that was true.
Thank you Mr Abdiweli.
This article was posted by Neptune Maritime Security with the kind permission of SomaliaReport.com. MaritimeSecurity.Asia in cooperation with www.neptunemaritimesecurity.com