Sky NewsSomalia's president has offered an amnesty to pirates, in a move that
risks angering countries that have paid millions in ransoms.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told the AFP newswire he had offered clemency in a bid to end attacks off the Horn of Africa nation's coast.
Mr Mohamud said: "We have been negotiating with the pirates indirectly through the elders. Piracy has to end."
A significant number of the pirates who operate off the Horn of Africa - disrupting international trade routes - are suspected of living in Somalia.
Piracy is thought to cost global trade more than £4bn a year and has also led to the deaths of dozens of sailors and some tourists.
David Tebbutt, 58, from Bishop's Stortford, Herts, died at the hands of Somali pirates after he and his wife Judith were kidnapped from the resort they were staying at in Kenya in 2011.
Paul and Rachel Chandler, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, who were seized near the Seychelles in 2009, spent 388 days in captivity before they were released unharmed.At the time of Judith Tebbutt's eventual release in May 2012, Prime
Minister David Cameron reiterated the Government's pledge that they do
not make concessions to hostage-takers.
According to the campaign group Saveourseafarers, 62 of the 3,500
seafarers who have been taken captive by pirates in a four-year period
The group says many have been tortured and left traumatised.
Seven boats and 113 hostages are currently held by Somali pirates, but
more than 570 ships have been attacked in the last five years.
The British Navy is one of the forces from a number of countries which
patrols the waters around the Horn of Africa to protect ships.
Britain currently has four ships based in the region on anti-pirate
manoeuvres as part of Operation Ocean Shield. The US has 13 ships,
including two aircraft carriers.
The number of attacks has gone down, but the ships taking part still
regularly engage in small scale conflicts with pirates operating in the
Piracy has escalated because of the rewards available with major
international companies and insurance firms paying millions of pounds in
ransoms to armed gangs who seize ships.
The exact number of pirates in Somalia is not known, but it is thought to be hundreds, if not thousands.
The more stable regions of the country including Puntland in the
northeast and Somaliland in the northwest have both taken measures to
combat the problem with mixed success.
But in the war-torn south, the industry has boomed as the government
has been tied up fighting an extremist Islamic insurgency, said to be
linked to the problem.
A British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report in 2012
recommended that special anti-piracy courts should be set up in
neighbouring states like Kenya, to tackle the issue.
It is not known whether the proposed amnesty would apply to those
already arrested for suspected piracy or just those who are active
pirates who have yet to be detained.
The six-month old government of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud - Somalia's first
to be elected since 1991 - is slowly establishing a more peaceful,
stable country, but it still has major law and order problems.
The president said that he wanted to offer an "alternative means of
earning a living" to young Somalis who have taken up the gun to join
The amnesty was not open to pirate kingpins, he said - those who take
the vast majority of the profits from the attacks - some of whom are
wanted by Interpol.
"We are not giving them amnesty, the amnesty is for the boys," he said.