Mohamed Abdi Hassan, aka ‘Afweyne’ or ‘Big Mouth’, the notorious Somali pirate kingpin reportedly behind some of the regions most high-profile hijackings, has announced his retirement.
According to a report today by the AFP, Hassan has effectively retired as a Somali pirate kingpin after 8 successful years in the business.
“After being in piracy for eight years, I have decided to renounce and quit, and from today on I will not be involved in this gang activity,” Hassan told reporters from the central Somali region of Adado.
The New York Times ran a report in August 2011 that described Hassan as a sophisticated, resourceful character who raised venture capital for his pirate operations “as if he were launching a Wall Street I.P.O.”
Over his career, Hassan and his gang amassed millions of dollars in ransoms paid by ship owners for the release of their ships.
In 2008, Hassan and his men allegedly hijacked the fully laden VLCC, Sirius Star. The Sirius Star is the largest vessel ever captured by Somali pirates and was estimated to be loaded with about $100 million of oil when hijacked. The Sirius Star was eventually released on January 9, 2009 for a $3 million ransom.
Later in 2009, Hassan was also reportedly the man behind the infamous hijacking of the MV Faina, a Ukranian ro-ro loaded with Soviet-era tanks and ammunitions. The hijacking of the Faina created quite the stir, especially with the U.S. Navy, as the pirates were allegedly trying to unload the cargo. Fortunately they were never able to do so and the ship and its crew were eventually released 134 days later for a ransom believed to be more than $3 million.
The silver lining of today’s report is that Hassan is also encouraging his comrades to give up the piracy trade as well.
“I have also been encouraging many of my colleagues to renounce piracy too, and they have done it,” the AFP quotes Hassan as saying in his retirement announcement made from Adado, a central Somalia town known for a long time as a pirate haven.
As we know, Somali pirates have come under increasing pressure from international navies and even Somali authorities in recent months. 2012 saw the lowest incidents of pirate attacks and hijackings off the coast of Somalia in recent years, thanks in part to beefed up naval patrols and ship owners’ use of private maritime security companies.