Somali piracy "out of control"

Hannah Cooper
19 November 2008

Piracy in Somali waters has escalated dramatically since the weekend hijacking of a Saudi "supertanker" that held as much as two million barrels of oil, worth more than $100m and representing over a quarter of Saudi Arabia's daily exports, which was bound for the United States via the Cape of Good Hope. Tuesday saw the capture of a Hong Kong-registered cargo ship carrying 36,000 tonnes of wheat to Iran. On the same day, a Thai fishing boat and a Greek bulk carrier were also seized. A British tanker came under attack but a German helicopter thwarted the attempt. The Indian navy also reportedly sunk one of the pirates' ships after one of their own vessels came under attack.Keep up to date with the latest developments and sharpest perspectives in a world of strife and struggle.

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The toD verdict: Incidents of Somalian piracy this year, which the Saudi Arabian government has labelled as acts of terrorism, have driven up insurance costs, made some shipping companies change their routes and led to the deployment of military forces by NATO and European Union members amongst others. On Wednesday, the International Maritime Bureau said that piracy off the coast of Somalia was "out of control."

Recent developments put at risk a far higher proportion of the world's energy shipments than the 12 per cent that shipping organisations had already considered in danger. However, Somalia has not had a functioning government since the outbreak of civil war in 1991 and it is doubtful whether piracy off the country's shores can be resolved whilst Islamist insurgents control much of the south of Somalia. Indeed, Somalian Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein said naval patrols would not stop piracy and appealed for more help to tackle criminal networks with links beyond the Horn of Africa nation.

Somali gunmen are believed to be holding about a dozen ships in the area and more than 200 hostages; piracy in the region is estimated to have cost up to $30m in ransoms so far this year.

Landmark deal over US withdrawal from Iraq

Monday saw the signing of a landmark security pact between the Iraqi and US governments following a year of negotiations to replace the UN mandate which allows troops to operate in Iraq. The latest deal has put a timetable on US and coalition troops to pull out of cities by the summer of 2010 and leave the country completely by 2012, marking a concession by the Bush administration, which was opposed to deadlines in withdrawing from Iraq. It may well allow President-elect Barack Obama to fulfill his promise to end the Iraq war. The agreement will go to the Iraqi parliament, which is expected to vote on the timetable in the next few weeks.

However, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that the agreement could still be open to re-negotiation: "Three years is a long time. Conditions could change in that period of time." In Iraq, the Sadrist spokesman Ahmed al-Masoudi said of the pact that it "did not mean anything" and "hands Iraq over on a golden platter and for an indefinite period." Analysts worry that Iraq's fractious parliament may not agree to the deal.

Taliban threaten attack in Paris


In a video broadcast on Monday, a military leader of the Taliban announced that the Taliban would carry out attacks in the French capital unless Sarkozy pulls his troops out of Afghanistan. The video also saw the Taliban claiming responsibility for the 18 August attack in Kabul that claimed the lives of ten soldiers, injuring 21. France currently has a 2,600-strong force in Afghanistan.

Three-way talks held over PKK aggression

US, Iraqi and Turkish representatives met in Baghdad on Wednesday to hold three-way talks in order to formulate a common strategy against the Kurdish separatist fighters who use Iraq as a base for attacks on Turkey. The delegations were said to include both civilian and military representatives. Turkey's cross-border air strikes of Iraq have been on the up recently since 17 Turkish soldiers were killed last month in a PKK attack. The issue has also heightened tension between the Iraqi and Turkish governments; Ankara claims that Baghdad is not doing enough to stop PKK attacks. The PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by both Washington and Baghdad, aims to create an independent, socialist state in predominantly Kurdish parts of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. Iraqi Kurdistan is so far the only Kurdish region which has been officially recognised by the international community as an autonomous federal entity.

Serial attacks worry Japanese officials

Hours after a former vice-minister of health and his wife were found stabbed to death near Tokyo on Tuesday, the wife of another ex-official was stabbed in the Japanese capital when she opened her door to a man she thought to be delivering a parcel. Both officials had resigned for their part in a scandal involving the loss of millions of pension records in 2007, which also contributed to the ousting of the ruling party last year. The Japanese police have introduced heightened security amid fears that more attacks will be carried out against Japanese bureaucrats.

US strike again in Pakistan

A pre-dawn attack in the Janikhel tribal area in Bannu district of northwest Pakistan, killed five people on Wednesday, including two "foreigners"- often a reference to suspected al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters - according to government officials. It is thought that US drones were behind the attack, which wounded several other people when the bombs hit a house. Pakistan's military chief is currently visiting Brussels to discuss unilateral US attacks on Pakistan, which Islamabad sees as a violation of the country's sovereignty.

Elsewhere in Pakistan, Taliban militants attacked tribal leaders in the region of Bajaur near the Afghan border on Tuesday, triggering a gun battle and a blast that killed seven people.

Will COVID break up the UK?

Support for Scottish independence is at record levels. Support for a united Ireland is at record levels. Support for Welsh independence is at record levels.

The British state's management of the COVID crisis has widely been seen as disastrous. Will the pandemic accelerate the break-up of the United Kingdom?

Join us on Thursday 6 August at 5pm UK time/6pm CET for a live discussion.

Hear from:

Anthony Barnett Founder of openDemocracy, he has often written about the need for a progressive England to emerge from the shadow of Britain.

Allison Morris Security correspondent and columnist with the Irish News, and an analyst of politics in Northern Ireland.

Harriet Protheroe-Soltani Trade union organiser for Wales and the south-west, vice chair of the campaign group Momentum, and has written about rising support for Welsh independence on the Left.

Chair: Adam Ramsay Editor at openDemocracy and frequent writer about Scottish independence, most recently in The Guardian.

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