Officials in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland have welcomed EU plans to expand their anti-piracy operation to include the coast of Somalia. German Foreign Ministry spokesman, Andreas Paschke, has said that there are EU plans to destroy pirate infrastructure or bases on the coast. He was quick to assure that the proposed plans did not include deploying any troops onto Somalian soil. He added that a proposal will be submitted to the EU this month.
“We welcome this plan. I hope it will help destroy pirate operations off our coast,” said Puntland’s Interior Minister, Gen. Abdulaahi Ahmed Jama (known as Ilkajiir).
“This is what we have needed for years. We have always said that the best solution to fight pirates is to launch an assault on the beaches. Now, if the EU is planning to fight pirates on the beaches, and we are accelerating the fight on land, serious gains will be made,” Gen Ilka jiir added.
Last month, Puntland officials detained dozens of pirates during their own anti-piracy operations in the region.
Garacad area in the Mudug region is a significant pirate base. Approximately 200 pirates operate out of Garacad, Dhinooda and Buq. Puntland officials in Garacad area told Somalia Report that they welcome the suggestion, but requested notice before any such operation were launched.
“Pirates are a major scourge on the world economy, and we welcome any steps taken by the international community to fight the pirates and destroy their power bases,” said Abdikarim Kaytoun, Chairman of Jariban District (which governs Garacad).
“We need to be informed before any such operation is underway, because we would need to inform residents, local fishermen and elders. Actions like these can be misunderstood, and we would want to ensure that locals understood that the operation was launched with the sole aim of fighting pirates,” said Abdkiram Kayton.
Although Puntland officials told Somalia Report that the local fishermen would be understanding, many of them who spoke to Somalia Reportwere less positive about the EU proposal.
Mahad Yare, a local fisherman in Bari offered his opinion to Somalia Report.
“While I do welcome the operation, they need to be careful that they do not disrupt the local fishing trade. We depend on being able to go out and fish, and then sell them. That said, pirates have disrupted our lives already, which is why we support the plan.”
However, Mahad’s view is not shared by all local fisherman. Somalia Report also spoke with Cali Warabe, a fisherman in Mudug.
“I am completely against the plan. This will damage our lives even more. Pirates are responsible for the deaths of huge numbers of fisherman, they have stolen our boats, and they have destroyed our equipment. International navies prevent us from fishing freely, and they have even detained my innocent friends, accusing them of piracy. Now we live in fear of both pirates and foreign navies. If the EU expands its anti-piracy operation to Somalia’s beaches, we won’t be able to go out and fish freely. First we were prevented from fishing far off the coast, and now we will be unable to fish near our beaches. The only way we will support the move is if Puntland officials can guarantee that our jobs will be safe.”
Pirates have naturally been critical of the EU proposal. Somalia Report spoke with pirates based in Mudug, Nugal and Bari.
“We heard this in the media and we think its ridiculous,” Faysal, a pirate in Garacad told Somalia Report.
“We don’t think that international navies can arrive on Somalia’s beaches. We are powerful enough on land and on the beaches to fight them off”, said Tur, a pirate based in Harardhere.
“While pirate gangs have experienced some infighting and conflict over the division of ransoms, we will all unite and fight against the EU if they try to come on land”, Tuur added.
Another pirate in Bari region sent an even stronger warning.
“International navies have been operating off the coast for a long time, and stil we are hijacking vessels. Even if they come onto our beaches, we will continue to hijack vessels. If they try to strike cities near the beach, we will kill hostages one by one. Every European hostage will be in danger, so EU ministers should think very carefully about this,” Faysal, a pirate in Bari told Somalia Report.
While this EU plan has by no means been decided upon, and EU officials have been firm in establishing that they are unwilling to launch any operations in Somali cities, the pirate response is concerning.
Puntland president, Abdurahman Farole recently stated at an anti-piracy meeting in London that the solution to piracy is to bolster the fight onland, “Pirates are from the land, and not from the sea, and so the best solution is to fight them on land.“
Republished with permission, (c) 2012 SomaliaReport.com
Somalia Report is a privately funded, non-partisan website that hires Western editors to work with Somali journalists inside the country to cover all aspects of the region: piracy, conflict, terrorism, government, local news, culture and key issues. The hour-by-hour coverage is targeted to professionals who need expertise, situational awareness and in-depth background to breaking news.