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Weekly Intelligence Report 15th February – 21st February

Indian Ocean HRA

Overview

The threat of piracy still exists in the waters of the Southern Red Sea/ Bab el Mandeb, Gulf of Aden including Yemen and the northern Somali coast, Arabian Sea/Gulf of Oman and off the eastern and southern Somali coastline. Although the opportunity for attacks has reduced, Somali pirates continue to possess the motivation and capability to carry out attacks.

There have been unconfirmed reports from the RMIFC (Regional Maritime Infusion Centre) that over the last three (3) months Pirate Groups have been operating in the territorial waters of Puntland between Bosaso and Aluula. The report states that there has been three (3) attacks against ‘local coastal tankers’ with all attempts reportedly failing as the former pirate groups attempt to restore some form of projection capacity.

Intelligence Comment:

The political situation in Somalia continues to deteriorate with a breakdown in relations between the Federal Member States (FMS) and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS). The security situation across Somalia remains unstable and fragile, as demonstrated by the assassination of the P&O Port Construction Manager, Paul Formosa, in Bosaso on 4th February by Al Shabaab. Beyond the calls from terrorist groups and factions, the Puntland population is increasingly unhappy with the concessions offered to foreign economic interests: last December, the massive issuance of 31 tuna fishing licences to the China Overseas Fisheries Association (COFA), which is allowed to fish within the 24 nm limit.

Ongoing Threats

It is highly unlikely that international shipping is being directly targeted by combatants in the Yemen conflict, but there remains a risk of misidentification and miscalculation. The situation is fluid and the threats to shipping can change rapidly. Ship operators should carry out detailed risk assessments for each voyage into the area using the latest threat information.

Considerations

Masters are advised to remain vigilant at all times inside the High-Risk Area (HRA) and follow the guidance and protective measures, as set down in BMP5. In the past, it has been reported that Pirate Attack Groups (PAG) conducted ‘soft approaches’ on merchant ships transiting the HRA. Skiffs have been known to approach vessels in order to probe the reaction of the crew and any possible security teams on-board. If the pirate approach does not elicit a response, the pirates may then proceed with an attack, using additional skiffs. The guidance in BMP5 remains relevant and merchant vessels transiting the High-Risk Area are encouraged to comply with its three fundamentals; register at MSCHOA, report to UKMTO and implement Self Protection Methods.

Yemen

Al Houthi movement and the Hadi government agree on the initial phase of withdrawal from Hudaydah city. Forces will initially be withdrawn from the smaller port cities of Salif and Ras Issa. The expected pull-out of forces from three key ports in Yemen provides an opportunity to move to the major goal of ending the four-year conflict.

However, fighting continues elsewhere with the Saudi-led coalition conducting airstrikes on Houthi controlled Daylami airbase in the northern district of Sana’a on January 20. Meanwhile, Al Houthi forces launched missiles and shelled Saudi forces in Jizan region and Asir region, southern Saudi Arabia.

It is highly unlikely that international shipping is being directly targeted by combatants in the Yemen conflict, but there remains a risk of misidentification and miscalculation. The situation is fluid and the threats to shipping can change rapidly. Ship operators should carry out detailed risk assessments for each voyage into the area using the latest threat information.

Somalia

Al Shabaab assassinated Somalia’s Deputy Attorney General in Mogadishu on January 20. Authorities say the attack took place in the Hodan district as Mohamed Abdirahman Mursal left home for work. Witnesses told VOA Somali that two men on a motorcycle blocked his way, ordered him to exit the car and shot him dead. The reason for the attack was not known, although al-Shabaab has in the past assassinated government officials, civil servants, soldiers and elders. The men, who were armed with pistols, fled the scene in the car. Police later found the vehicle abandoned.

Al Shabaab militants also attacked a patrol of Ethiopian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces with two IEDs in Bardhere town in Gedo region, southern Somalia on February 20. The IEDs destroyed an armoured personnel carrier. The number of casualties is unknown.

The Kenyan government recalled its ambassador to Mogadishu on February 16 after accusing the Somali Federal Government (SFG) of auctioning oil blocks in a disputed maritime territory at a conference in London on February 7. Kenya also instructed the Somali ambassador to Nairobi to return to Somalia. The Somali government denied that it auctioned oil blocks in the disputed territory and released maps from the auction to corroborate this statement.

© Neptune P2P Group 2017