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Goodbye, Pirate!

15.10.2013 10:23

Ilya Panfilov

Belgian police announced the arrest of the former Somali pirate boss Mohammed Abdi Hassan, also known under the nickname Afweyne (Big Mouth).

According to Belgian media reports, Abdi Hassan was arrested on October 12 at the International Airport in Brussels, where he arrived from the Kenyan capital Nairobi. So far the reasons for his trip to Belgium are unknown. After the arrest of the African was taken to the city of Bruges, where charges were brought against him.

The arrest itself came as a surprise to Hassan; according to the former Somali pirate boss, he was quite amazed when the police put handcuffs on him. He was detained together with a high-ranking Somali official who accompanied him and whose name is not yet known. It is because of his ties with the government of Somalia, as is believed by many experts from the UN, that the pirate had repeatedly managed to evade responsibility.

Abdi Hassan is known as one of the wealthiest leaders of pirates at the Somali coast. For the first time, information about him appeared in 2005, in the UN reports. For 8 years Hassan has been the leader of the largest piracy network, which was based in Hobio-Harder and controlled most of the Indian Ocean seaways.

In 2009, the Big Mouth coordinated a criminal group that captured and for more than 70 days held as hostage a crew of the Pompeii Belgian ship. Moreover, Hassan is considered involved in the capture of the Faina Ukrainian cargo ship on board of which weapons were carried, as well as of the Sirius Star Saudi supertanker.

During his criminal activities he managed to clean up a fortune, which, on a conservative estimate, amounts to several tens of millions of dollars, which allowed him to enlist the support of the Somali authorities.

In January 2013, Abdi Hassan announced his intention to stop to filibuster and resign. "After eight years of pirate activity, I decided to give it up and retire. From today I am not involved in this criminal activity," said the leader of the Somali pirates. However, he did not tell the reasons for his decision but said that for a year he has urged his ?colleagues' to follow his example and give up robbery. "I also called my companions-in-arms to give up piracy, and many of them followed my advice," said then Abdi Hassan.

There are quite a lot of versions of Hassan's resignation, but experts attribute this phenomenon to the enhanced security measures taken by the international community. Now it has become too dangerous for pirates to attack the ships; thugs have lately increasingly fallen into the hands of the law.

In summer 2013 the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) issued a report, which noted that the activity of Somali pirates fell to a minimum. This is due to the presence of international Navy in the region, as well as to the extraordinary security measures taken by ship owners, in particular, hiring armed guards for vessels. Since 2006, in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast only eight attacks were fixed. On only two occasions, the pirates managed to seize the vessels, but they were successfully released.

Since 2009, NATO Naval Forces have been engaged in the safety of ships off the Horn of Africa. Currently, the Operation Ocean Shield involves the U.S., Denmark, the Netherlands and Turkey Navy warships, as well as the Ukrainian Navy frigate Hetman Sagaydachny. The military force involved in the operation has in total about one thousand people. Concurrently, the EU Naval Force Somalia Operation Atalanta is carried out which had been launched on December 8, 2008. The mission includes four ships, two aircraft and 2,000 military personnel.

The Russian Navy ships too are actively involved together with the NATO and the EU ships in the protection of maritime traffic in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast. Since 2008, Russian warships have made 15 trips to areas of increased pirate activity and ensured the safety of navigation for more than 700 ships.

To ensure safety off the Horn of Africa the Russian Navy is also working closely with the NATO naval force.

In February 2013 in the Gulf of Aden, a group of Italian sea soldiers serving in the Italian Navy ship San Marco ? a NATO flagship, and a naval assault group of the Russian Navy major amphibious ship Severomorsk jointly practiced the actions of combating piracy in the framework of bilateral exercises between NATO and Russia. The exercise has become a significant step towards the interoperability of NATO and Russia in the fight against piracy in the Indian Ocean.

The decreased activity of Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa indicates the effective interaction of the Russian, NATO and EU Naval Forces. Thanks to the navy sailors' well coordinated efforts the pirates are making fewer attempts to capture civilian vessels. It is safe to say that in the near future, the region will cease to be a hotbed of sea robbery.