Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Somali Pirates Take Danish Hostages

Jolly RogerWe’ve covered stories about Somalia’s pirates in the past, but their murderous depredations are in the news headlines once again. This latest incident piqued my interest because it happens to overlap with news about my favorite Viking country: a Danish freighter has been captured off the coast of Somalia. Here’s the story from yesterday’s Copenhagen Post:

The Foreign Ministry has now gotten involved in the case of a Danish freight ship that was captured by pirates late Friday in the Arabian Sea

The Danica WhiteThe ship and five-person crew of freighter Danica White are being held by pirates after being hijacked Saturday in the Arabian Sea off the coast of Somalia, reported the Operative Command of the Royal Danish Navy (SOK).

The ship is owned by H. Folmer & Co in Copenhagen and was carrying 10 tonnes of building materials.

SOK was notified Saturday by the shipper that the vessel had been on its way from Dubai to Mombassa, Kenya and had been in contact with a French warship when captured. The French ship could not follow the freighter into Somali waters and no further contact has been possible with the ship or its crew since Saturday.

The ship was reportedly localised [they mean “located” — BB] Monday afternoon in Somalia by private investigation firm Protocol, according to Politiken newspaper, which reported that it is anchored in the port town of Hobyo, 700 kilometres up the coast from Mogadishu.

Lars Thuesen, the Foreign Ministry’s chief of consular affairs, told public broadcaster DR the ministry is doing everything in its power to secure the safety of the crew.

‘We’ve set up a task force with all the relevant Danish authorities, which have been summoned many times during the weekend. In addition we have close contact with the ship’s owners and the crewmen’s families.’

Authorities are now waiting to hear from the hijackers and what their demands are for release of the ship and crew.

The hijacking occurred nearly 240 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia, an area known to be pirate-infested. The pirates, believed to be Somali, now have four foreign ships in their possession, including a Taiwanese vessel.

One of the Taiwanese crewmembers has been killed by the pirates and experts are warning that the lives of the Danes are in danger as well. A spokesperson for an east African shipping association told Reuters that it was likely the pirates would demand ransom.

In this case the Danes sound just as wussy as their American counterparts under similar circumstances. They’ve “set up a task force”. They’re “doing everything in their power”. And, of course, they’re waiting to receive the pirates’ ransom demands.

Presumably the climax of this little drama will occur when the Danish government sends a strongly-worded note to the Somali authorities — assuming that any such can be found.

And Fox News had this report today:
- - - - - - - - - -
The U.S. Navy has fired warning shots across the bow of a Dutch [they mean “Danish” — BB] ship that has been boarded by armed pirates off the coast of Somalia, FOX News has learned.

The USS Carter Hall also fired on three small boats that surrounded the commercial ship, the “Danica White,” after her crew messaged for assistance after being boarded by pirates, the Navy said.

The incident began Saturday and as of Monday the Danish ship’s crew was still believed to be held at gunpoint by an unknown number of pirates who forced the vessel into Somalia’s territorial waters. There have been no reports of casualties.

My favorite part of the story was this paragraph:

On Saturday, Jorgen Folmer, a spokesman for the Danish shipping company, said a French naval vessel in the area had confirmed the ship and its crew of five was hijacked but was unable to intervene because it could not enter Somali waters.

I was discussing the story with the Future Baron Bodissey over dinner tonight, and when I told him that the French would not enter Somalia’s territorial waters, he asked, “Why not? Were they actually worried that by doing so their international reputation might be further tarnished? Or had the crew not done a requisite amount of surrender drills?”

Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been a continual problem for a number of years. The stories only make Western headlines when Americans or Europeans are involved, but the raiding goes on pretty much all the time. The Fox article goes on to say this:

A maritime official said Monday that Somali pirates who have been holding a Taiwan-flagged fishing vessel since mid-May killed one of the 16 crew members because the ship’s owners have not paid a ransom.

The pirates threatened to kill other crew members if their demands are not met, said Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Program.

He cited a relative of one of the captives, who was allowed to call his family.

“The gunmen have established contact with the owner of the ship but it appears that he was giving them empty promises,” Mwangura said.


Somali pirates are trained fighters, often dressed in military fatigues, using speedboats equipped with satellite phones and Global Positioning System equipment. They are typically armed with automatic weapons, anti-tank rocket launchers and various types of grenades, according to the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia.

Although piracy is rampant off Somalia’s lawless coast, killing crew members is relatively rare, Mwangura said. He said pirates have killed four crew members in the past 10 years.

“Normally they don’t kill crew members if they cooperate,” he said.

Since February, pirates have hijacked 10 ships — five have been released and five are still being held, according to the Seafarers Assistance Program.

It’s not as if the Danica White had no advance warnings about the situation. According to yesterday’s Jyllands Posten (in Danish), an international maritime agency issued warnings about the dangerous waters along the Somali coast two weeks before the Danica White was captured.

Fighting the Barbary piratesThe story of Muslim pirates is an old one. From an American perspective it goes back at least to 1802, when the U.S. Marines had to go all the way to Tripoli to teach the Barbary pirates a lesson about the taking of American citizens as slaves.

But that’s not to say piracy is a peculiarly Islamic practice — since the dawn of time, from the Vikings to Blackbeard, the rapacious freebooters have been represented by every race, creed, and nationality.

But, as a religion, Islam has the unique distinction of condoning piracy against infidels. It is a religious duty for the followers of the Prophet to fall upon the unbeliever and separate him from his worldly goods and — if possible — his life. From the raiding of caravans on the Silk Road to the plundering of Venetian merchantmen in the Adriatic to the taking of American slaves off the shores of Tripoli, since Islam’s inception Muslims have discovered the confluence of profit and Prophet in the act of piracy.

Islamic polities have never been productive civilizations. Plunder and exploitation are economic necessities for them, and without such activities they wither and decline. After all, the current upsurge of Islamic aggression is being driven by the plundering of underground oil reserves.

Viking longboatI asked Phanarath, my Danish correspondent, about the plight of the Danica White. Here’s what he said:

Let’s see what happens. The people in charge of the negotiations seem very secretive. I am hoping they are planning a little surprise for those pirates. We will see.


History Snark said...

Glad to see that the Future Baron has some wit (in both senses of the word). As soon as I saw that the French navy was nearby, I wondered why they didn't help. Hopefully the Good Guys in the world will take heed of who helps and who sits by and watches.

Though I think a nice missile into a couple of their attack boats would have sent an even better message.

But no doubt, if we had engaged and hurt the Danish crew, then their government would have had a hissy fit at us for butting in.

Darned if you do, and darned if you don't.

Francis W. Porretto said...

The day is coming when every traveler or vessel, regardless of size, destination, or mode of locomotion, will go armed -- and will shoot first rather than wait to be accosted by a stranger.

Yes, it's a sad prospect. The preferred default mode of interaction between strangers is the benefit of the doubt -- trust until first betrayal. But incidents like the one described here, to say nothing of the hundreds of routine incidents of kidnappping, terrorism, and general barbarism around the world, have a persuasive power that our good will and good intentions will not withstand.

X said...

It's likely that the french ship was too far away to reach them before they entered somali waters. How long before ships have to convoy in the area?

Mikael said...

The French ship could not follow the freighter into Somali waters

Thank you our staunch friends in the EU and NATO. What would we do without you? Friggin' frogs!

The ideal outcome of this affair would be that in a few days the crew will be free, the pirates turned into shark fodder and the vessel in international waters with a small contingent of "Frømænd" - the Danish Navy Seals - as reinforcement and no one would be none the wiser.

But that's not going to happen. A rescue operation would be interfering with Somali internal affairs. Can't have that. Bad form. Better to pay off the pirates and set up a task force of psychologists.

Still, you never know.

Panday said...

In this case the Danes sound just as wussy as their American counterparts under similar circumstances. They’ve “set up a task force”. They’re “doing everything in their power”. And, of course, they’re waiting to receive the pirates’ ransom demands.

Ummm, Baron...

I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but:

"U.S. Navy Siezes Pirate Ship off Somalia"

Baron Bodissey said...

Stephen --

Yes, I was familiar with the incident.

So I got a little flip and sarcastic about the USA -- I wasn't really thinking about the military, but the State Department. And, above all, I was thinking about Jimmuh.

Anonymous said...

I heard a silly joke at the local store the other day.

Its a Dane a Turk and a Somali having a drink together.

The Turk makes the first toast and smashes his glass, saying: "In Turkey we are so rich that we can just buy more Glass".
The Somali makes the next toast and smashes his glass, saying: "In Somalia we have so much sand, that we can just make new Glass".
The Dane makes the 3. toast, pulls out a gun and shoots the other two, saying "In Denmark we have so many Turks and Somalis, that we only drink with them once.

Silly jokes aside, we have a lot of Somalis in Denmark, maybe we could offer an exchange.

Ok, silly jokes aside, for real this time. I do hope those pirates are taught a lesson, but I am afraid of course that its just wishful thinking. Western countries have gone soft and have no stomach for war or warlike situations. Even the US and Israel, the bad boys in the class, are often more concerned about pleasing the enemy then protecting their own people and troops. And the sad thing is that if we had men who where willing to make hard and cynical choices, it would save countless of lives in the long run including those on the other side.

Western countries should stay far away from wars as they can, at least until they are willing to fight them.

David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 06/06/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.