Naval forces from Puntland in Somalia have surrounded an oil tanker that has been hijacked by pirates. One of the pirates has told the BBC they were fishermen whose stocks had been depleted by illegal fishing. He said they thought the ship was a fishing vessel until they boarded it and found it was carrying oil. He also denied reports that they were demanding a ransom. They are reported to be holding the eight Sri Lankan crew members hostage.
BBC’s Somali’s Mowlid Haji spoke with the leader of the group, who gave his name as Said. According to Said, they earn their daily bread from fishing in the coastal areas. They have seen huge fishing vessels cut their fishing nets, and some have fired at them. They feel they have been patient a long time. However, these vessels have started destroying their small boats and equipment. The day they seized the ship was the day they decided to counter these acts. They were after a particular ship that had destroyed some of their equipment when they came across the present ship, about eight miles from the coast. They initially thought it was a fishing vessel but discovered it was a cargo ship, transporting oil. Since there resources are being depleted, they have held the ship, because they have nothing to lose.
As of now, Said stated there is no difference between a cargo ship, a nuclear disposal one or fishing one that cuts their nets and competes with their fishing rights. The present ship was passing eight miles to the coastal area and they consider the area over 10 miles from the coast as an exclusive fishing area for them. Said stated that international laws are not respected when it comes to their issues. Poor civilians, going out to fish, in search of daily bread, and the fishing or business ships destroy their equipment. He questions why the issue only gains significance when there is retaliation. This incident is given a human face while their issues are completely ignored.
When asked if he (Said) was creating a problem to solve another and if the people he is holding are just like him, Said responded: “For me, I cannot differentiate between the ones who killed my brothers when they collided and run over our small boats at Somali coasts. So only God know if they are not the same people who did that, as I am not police and I have no capability to investigate. This is not using a problem to solve another. This is response to a major problem. The saying goes that if you patient for quite too long, you many explode at one time. That is what is happening now.”
Although not given any authority to take these actions, Said believes the circumstances dictated it. The Puntland administration is the one issuing the permits to all these fishing vessels that are collecting their maritime resources.
When asked about the lack of any confirmation of the allegations and what was expected to be achieved from this, Said responded: “Whatever we want is something we have been discussing with the owners of the ship, and the talks are progressing well, we are now doing the final touches, and God willing, it will end peacefully. Sorry, I cannot give any more details.” Said claims they are not pirates but stated the reason for negotiating may be to look for evidence if these people are the same ones that ran over their boats or might be for ransom. But the negotiations are being done humanely and will conclude soon. When told there is information from NATO that ransom was asked for, Said stated “We have not asked for money, or any kind of ransom…”
Source: BBC Africa