Pirates attacks will resume if ship owners let their guard down, warn former hostages

DUBAI // Somali pirates would strike again as soon as alert levels decline, as they believe ship owners would eventually scale back their defences, said a former hostage held captive by the pirates for four years.

“We would hear the pirates talk about how the armed guards would be on ships for only two to three years and then they could start capturing ships again,” said Mohammed Bisthamy, 60, an engineer among 11 sailors of the MV Albedo who escaped on June 7.

They were being held captive on shore by a gang of Somali pirates after their vessel sank in July last year.

The Malaysian-flagged cargo ship was hijacked in November 2010 after leaving Dubai’s Jebel Ali port and their captivity was the longest among those held by Somali pirates.

Mr Bisthamy and 10 others fled to Galmudug, a semi-autonomous region in central Somalia, and were flown to Kenya by United Nations officials.

“The pirates would talk to each other about how owners would get tired of keeping armed guards. They said people would be on guard for only a few years. If people stop being careful then ships will be targeted again.”

An image Mr Bisthamy wanted to forget was pirates brandishing guns and swiftly scaling his ship using a ladder.

“We thought that the small boat near us was a fishing boat but the pirates actually followed us for 26 days before they finally got on board,” he said.

“I try and forget but I know people must be reminded and sailors must take care.”

The pirates wanted to use the MV Albedo to hijack other vessels but Mr Bisthamy and the crew said the ship required fuel, oil and repairs. They were shot at when the pirates found out the men were lying.

The pirates used dhows or fishing boats for reconnaissance missions to approach merchant ships without arousing suspicion due to the presence of armed guards and naval forces.

There have been 30 incidents reported this year, including the recent case this month in the Bab el Mandeb and Southern Red Sea areas, where skiffs approached vessels. After warning flares were fired by the security team on board the boats withdrew, according to intelligence company Dryad Maritime,

In one attack this year in which shots were fired, pirates hijacked a dhow and later used it in an attempt to seize a tanker off Salalah in January, Dryad analysis shows.

Mr Bisthamy’s son, Muzne, appealed to shipping companies to never let down their guard.

“My father still suffers pain from the torture they faced,” he said. “They were shot at and beaten and did not get medicines or food. Pirates used small boats to board big boats so it is still not safe.

“The pirates will keep waiting because they know people will think there is no danger but families like ours know there is danger still.”

Via: http://www.thenational.ae

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