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Somali Pirates Back in Business?

Lawlessness onshore is fueling a resurgence of crime on the high seas.

In the past month, there have been six suspected piracy incidents near Somalia, five of them successful, including three in the last week. That’s compared with zero successful attacks in 2016.

Three more murky maritime incidents off the coast of Somalia’s Galmudug state, where suspected illegal fishing vessels paid “fines” that may in fact have been ransoms, suggest that piracy has rebounded on a scale even larger than previously reported.

The spike in banditry on the high seas off the Horn is a blow to the decades-long battle to stem piracy there, and bad news for the international shipping industry, which transports $700 billion worth of cargo through the dangerous corridor each year. It’s also a stark reminder that one of the main drivers of piracy, rampant illegal fishing that depletes local fish stocks and drives some fishermen to take up arms, remains as big a problem as ever.

The resurgence of piracy in the Horn of Africa’s busy transport corridor comes when both anti-piracy forces and shipping companies have let down their guard. A NATO naval force pulled out of the Horn in December, citing the decline in pirate attacks, though a European Union force remains. Lawellin said that many cargo ships plying Somalia’s waters have also stopped taking basic precautionary measures, such as hiring armed guards on their ships and sailing at higher speeds farther from shore.

“As piracy declined, the use of these threat mitigation measures also declined,” Lawellin said. “The opportunity for pirates to hijack vessels is still present, and it appears that some still possess the capability and intent to venture out to sea in search of targets.”

The continued threat also reflects the fact that little has been done to address what is often cited as the root of piracy in Somalia: illegal fishing by foreign vessels, which Somali fishermen say drives them to take up arms to protect their shoreline. The international navies, which deployed to the region in 2008 amid rapidly escalating pirate attacks, have a U.N. mandate to stop hijackings, but they are not empowered to block the foreign fishing fleets that contribute to the underlying economic problem.

Full Article Via foreignpolicy.com

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