Somalia: The “Liberation” of the MV Daesan and the MV Iceberg

mvdaesan-640x480Earlier this week the MV Daesan was released by the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) guards who hijacked it. The official story was the “guards turned hijackers” had a change of heart after quarreling about their action, causing them to then turn back to return the Korean flagged ship to the custody of the Puntland government.

Yesterday, some of the troops of the PMPF managed to liberate the hostages aboard MV Iceberg from the group of pirates who were holding them since March 2010.

The MV Daesan has been under the PMPF custody since it was captured on November 18 for allegedly dumping bags of hardened cement that was rejected by the Mogadishu merchants who bought the cargo. The ship was anchored near the port Bosaso and it was waiting for the owners of ship or cargo to pay the fine imposed by the Puntland administration for the illegal dumping, when it was “hijacked” by its guards.

In November, the Puntland administration promised that the ship crew would be brought to justice to face punishment for their crime. More than a month later, the ship and its crew did not face any court and no finding or evidence has been provided of their guilt. The only thing that we are aware of is that the Koreans were unable or unwilling to pay the administrative fine of 2 million dollars. Also, according to the semi-official media, the owners of the cargo have suggested selling the bags of cement, that are in good condition, in Bosaso, in order to raise the funds to release the ship.

Why the guards, who were holding the ship and its crew, decided to hijack the ship and just as easily voluntarily return it in less than to days without a gun being fired remains a mystery.

According to some of the pro-Faroole media, some political operatives connected to pirates were behind this hijacking. When Horseed asked some of the opposition figures to respond to the government’s accusation, they responded, who in his right mind would commandeer a ship that has shown to be unable to pay the fine it was extra-judicially ordered to pay. They said, why would we relief Faroole and his administration of the embarrassment of holding a crew he has not proven to have dumped cement in Somali waters near Bosaso. They asked, “Why did the crew of this ship decide to sail more than a 1000km from Mogadishu, where their damaged cargo was rejected, to 13km from Bosaso to dump this cargo? Were they under special orders to discharge in a specific place? Every day that passes without an official inquiry about what this ship is being accused of is an embarrassment, if not an indictment against the present government.”

The motivation for the hijacking is more likely due to the anger of the so-called police force not being paid since their Emirate sponsors suspended their funds. It is common occurrence in Puntland, and Somalia, to have unpaid troops (more like civilians with guns) take matters into their own hands.

The liberation of MV Iceberg is equally bizarre. The MV Iceberg and its crew of 22 mariners have been in captivity since March 2010 offshore near Gara’ad, a southern coastal town in Puntland. The owners of the UAE flagged ship refused to pay the ransom demanded by the pirates holding it. The mostly Indian crew was held in starvation conditions and reportedly tortured.

Right around December 10th this year, the Puntland authorities ordered their marine forces to attempt a humanitarian rescue of the ship and crew. The reports of the initial skirmishes were few casualties suffered by the government forces as well as the pirate group.

Today, according to a government press release, the government forces managed to liberate the 22 person crew. There was no mention of the ship or of any governmental or pirate casualties, nor of any arrests made. The government reported only that the crew was severely emaciated and are receiving medical attention.

Sources, that declined to have their names published, informed Horseed that this new found humanitarian impulse of the Puntland leadership was as a result of a payment of 2 million dollars from the owners of the MV Iceberg, who were before refusing to pay the pirates. According to recent rumors, there is conflict between some senior government officials and the president’s son Mohamed Abdirahman Faroole about who is going take charge of reward money from the UAE. Could these disputing figures in the Puntland government and the Faroole family be behind the MV Daesan imbroglio? Only time will tell.

The only happy outcome of these confounding happenings is that the MV Iceberg crew and their families’ two and half year ordeal is almost over.

Yusuf Sharmarke
Horseed Media

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