22/10/08 (B470-B) BBC / Le patron de la flotte de l’OTAN, anti-pirates, estime qu’il sera difficile de défendre les navires de commerce contre les actions de ces pirates. // Somali pirates ‘hard to defeat’ (Info lectrice – En Anglais)

The commander of Nato’s anti-piracy patrol due to start soon off Somalia says it will be difficult to defend ships from pirate attacks.

« The time that a pirate unveils himself to the time that he’s onboard ship is such a short period of time, » Admiral Mark Fitzgerald told the BBC.

Earlier, he said rules of engagement were still being debated by Nato.

More than 30 ships have been seized this year in the busy shipping lanes near Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.

Nato is sending seven frigates to support US navy vessels already there, while India and several European countries have said they will also mount anti-piracy patrols.

How do you prove a guy’s a pirate before he actually attacks a ship?

Admiral Fitzerald said Nato’s mission was primarily to protect ships carrying UN aid to Somalia where more than three million people – almost half of the population – are in need of food aid.

But he hoped the Nato vessels would be able to protect other ships – around 20,000 vessels pass by Somalia each year.

« We’re there to try to deter the pirates, » he told the BBC.

However, given the amount of traffic, he said, it was difficult to spot who was a pirate.

« From a military standpoint, we certainly are limited by what we can do, » he told Reuters news agency.

« How do you prove a guy’s a pirate before he actually attacks a ship? »

He also said that the North Atlantic Council was still drawing up the rules of engagement for pirates.

« All we’ve been told is to prepare a plan to go down there. So [the rules] are going to have to be debated. »

Earlier this month, Nato spokesman James Appathurai told the BBC the Nato war ships would be able to use force if necessary in accordance with international law.

Piracy off the coast of Somalia is estimated to have cost up to $30m (£17m) in ransoms so far this year, according to a recent report.

Authorities in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland say they are often powerless to confront the pirates, many of whom are based in the town of Eyl.

Most vessels are freed after their owners pay the hefty sums, but about 10 are still being held, most notably the MV Faina – a Ukrainian ship loaded with 33 tanks and ammunition headed for Kenya.

Human Rights Watch says Somalia is the most ignored tragedy in the world.

Somalia has lacked a functioning central government since 1991 and has been afflicted by continual civil strife.

20/10/08 (B470) BBC : violent combats à Mogadiscio : au moins 20 morts et des dizaines de blessés. // Heavy fighting has left at least 20 people dead and dozens more injured in clashes across the Somali capital, Mogadishu, officials and witnesses say. (En Anglais – Info lectrice)

Islamist insurgents have been engaged in fierce battles with government troops and their Ethiopian allies, and both sides suffered casualties.

Five people were also reported killed when a mortar hit their house.

Correspondents say it is the fiercest fighting for several weeks and has engulfed three separate districts.

Elsewhere, a Somali working for the UN World Food Programme was shot dead as he left a mosque in the central town of Merka, becoming the latest aid worker to be targeted in the war-torn country.

In the capital, an official at the city’s biggest hospital said on Friday it was treating 35 civilians wounded in fighting that began the day before, and that six people had died overnight.

Government forces said one of their soldiers had been killed in the clashes in central Mogadishu and a further two had been injured, the BBC’s Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu reports from the Somali capital.

They also said two Islamists had been killed, and that insurgents had been forced to abandon a vehicle mounted with anti-aircraft guns.

Land mine

At least six other civilians caught up in the fighting in central Mogadishu had been killed, according to witnesses.

Separately, a government vehicle was hit by a land mine and two soldiers were killed.

On Thursday there was also deadly fighting near to African Union peacekeeper bases on the road to Mogadishu’s airport, a key target for rebels in recent weeks.

Ethiopian troops helped the government push Islamist forces from control of central and southern Somalia in late 2006, triggering an insurgency.

The country’s transitional government, which is recognised by the international community, now only controls patches of the country, correspondents say.

Islamists have launched escalating attacks against the AU peacekeeping force in recent months, as well as the government and their Ethiopian allies.

Somalia has been wracked by conflict since President Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.

More than three million people – almost half of Somalia’s population – need food aid, according to the UN.

Aid agencies recently estimated that 1.1 million people had been uprooted from Mogadishu over the last nine months.

18/10/08 (B470) BBC – De violents combats endueillent à nouveau la ville de Mogadiscio. // Heavy fighting engulfs Mogadishu (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

Heavy fighting has left at least 20 people dead and dozens more injured in clashes across the Somali capital, Mogadishu, officials and witnesses say.

Islamist insurgents have been engaged in fierce battles with government troops and their Ethiopian allies, and both sides suffered casualties.

Five people were also reported killed when a mortar hit their house.

Correspondents say it is the fiercest fighting for several weeks and has engulfed three separate districts.

Elsewhere, a Somali working for the UN World Food Programme was shot dead as he left a mosque in the central town of Merka, becoming the latest aid worker to be targeted in the war-torn country.

In the capital, an official at the city’s biggest hospital said on Friday it was treating 35 civilians wounded in fighting that began the day before, and that six people had died overnight.

Government forces said one of their soldiers had been killed in the clashes in central Mogadishu and a further two had been injured, the BBC’s Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu reports from the Somali capital.

They also said two Islamists had been killed, and that insurgents had been forced to abandon a vehicle mounted with anti-aircraft guns.

Land mine

At least six other civilians caught up in the fighting in central Mogadishu had been killed, according to witnesses.

Separately, a government vehicle was hit by a land mine and two soldiers were killed.

On Thursday there was also deadly fighting near to African Union peacekeeper bases on the road to Mogadishu’s airport, a key target for rebels in recent weeks.

Ethiopian troops helped the government push Islamist forces from control of central and southern Somalia in late 2006, triggering an insurgency.

The country’s transitional government, which is recognised by the international community, now only controls patches of the country, correspondents say.

Islamists have launched escalating attacks against the AU peacekeeping force in recent months, as well as the government and their Ethiopian allies.

Somalia has been wracked by conflict since President Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.

More than three million people – almost half of Somalia’s population – need food aid, according to the UN.

Aid agencies recently estimated that 1.1 million people had been uprooted from Mogadishu over the last nine months.

07/10/08 (B468) BBC : Selon HRW, la Somalie est le drame mondial le plus « ignoré » par les media, alors que le monde entier devrait être choqué par la destruction systèmatique de Mogadiscio et l’assassinat de ses habitants // Somalia is ‘most ignored tragedy’ (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

The world should be shocked at the systematic destruction of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, and its residents, says lobby group Human Rights Watch.

The organisation told the BBC the city had become a zone of free-fire between government and insurgent forces.

It said if such a situation was happening anywhere else in the world, like Georgia or Lebanon for example, it would be considered a travesty.

Instead Somalia was the most ignored tragedy in the world today, HRW said.

Meanwhile, a group of 52 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has issued a statement saying the international community had « completely failed Somali civilians ».

The aid groups estimate that almost 40,000 people had been displaced from Mogadishu in the last few weeks, with 1.1 million uprooted in the last nine months.

BBC World Affairs correspondent Mark Doyle recently visited Mogadishu and says the city on the Indian Ocean, which was previously one of Africa’s trading hubs with the Middle East, is dying.

Now whole swathes of it are rubble or skeletons of buildings without doors or windows or roofs, he says.

He adds that the most shocking, eerie aspect of it is that in many parts of the capital all the people have fled.

The fighting is between the US-backed government and Islamist and nationalist insurgents, who Washington accuses of having links with al-Qaeda.

There are no international aid workers left as they are threatened with kidnap for ransom or are murdered.

The fighting has been much worse for the ordinary residents of Mogadishu than even the infamous period in the early 1990s that spawned the film Black Hawk Down, a portrayal of US troops killed in Somalia at that time, our World Affairs correspondent says.

In the early 1990s not a night passed without explosions lighting up the sky, he says.

But even that did not empty the capital of Somalia like the daily fratricidal confrontations now taking place between the government and its armed opponents.

02/10/08 (B467-B) BBC : Somalie: coups de feu à bord du Faina.

Des coups de feu ont été tirés à bord du Faina, le navire ukrainien chargé d’armes, détourné au large de la Somalie.

Selon le programme est-africain d’assistance aux marins, qui surveille la situation depuis que le bateau a été intercepté, il s’agit d’une fusillade entre factions rivales au cours de laquelle trois pirates ont été tués.

Mais l’un des assaillants contacté par la BBC affirme qu’ils tiraient en l’air pour fêter l’Aïd.

Selon un membre du programme est-africain d’assistance aux marins, qui est en contact avec le bateau, une fusillade aurait opposé les pirates somaliens entre eux.

Il existerait des divergences entre factions rivales sur la conduite à tenir : certains pirates seraient prêts à laisser partir le navire et son équipage, alors que d’autres insistent sur le versement de la rançon de 20 millions de dollars demandée.

Une option exclue par le Kenya, le pays destinataire des armes.

"D’abord, nous ne cautionnons aucune forme de terrorisme. Ensuite, nous ne voulons pas que les armes tombent aux mains de ces gens," a déclaré George Saitoti, ministre kenyan de la Sécurité.

"Ils peuvent s’en servir à de mauvaises fins et créer beaucoup d’instabilité dans la région. Nous travaillons, en collaboration avec d’autres pays, pour que justement les pirates ne s’en tirent pas comme ils le souhaitent", a-t-il ajouté.

Selon le programme est-africain d’assistance aux marins, les plus plus radicaux parmi les pirates voudraient garder une partie de l’armement qui se trouve à bord.

Le bateau ukrainien transporte des chars d’assaut et d’autres armes.

Il est encerclé depuis plusieurs jours par des navires de guerre étrangers, dont la mission est de s’assurer du devenir de la cargaison.

La version d’une fusillade entre pirates est toutefois démentie par un homme se présentant comme leur porte-parole.

Interrogé par la BBC, ce-dernier a affirmé que les coups de feu célébraient, en fait, la fête de l’Aïd qui marque la fin du Ramadan.

28/09/08 (B467) BBC : les pirates demandent une rançon de 35 millions d’US $ pour libérer le cargo Ukrainien qui transporte un impressionnant arsenal militaire. // Pirates ‘want $35m for tank ship’ (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

Experts say piracy has become big business in the area

Pirates who seized a Ukrainian ship off the coast of Somalia have reportedly demanded a ransom of $35m (£19m) to release the vessel and its crew.

The pirates also warned against any attempt to rescue the crew or cargo of the MV Faina, which is carrying 33 T-72 battle tanks destined for Kenya.

But the Kenyan government later denied it had been issued with ransom demands.

A Russian Navy vessel is heading to the region and the US has said it is also monitoring developments in the area.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, said he was concerned by the seizure of the military supplies on board the Ukrainian ship.

We are warning France and others who are thinking of carrying out a rescue that we have the power to reach them wherever they are

« They could be used to destabilise the region, and the whole situation on the high seas is a matter of great concern for all of us, » he told reporters in New York before a meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

« We very much hope the international community will respond. »

The official Egyptian news agency, Mena, meanwhile has said that an Egyptian ship with 25 crew, which was hijacked by pirates earlier this month off the coast of Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland, had been freed.

A local official in northern Somalia said a Japanese cargo vessel had also been released after a ransom was paid.

International concern

In an interview with the BBC, one of the pirates, Januna Ali Jama, claiming to be speaking on their behalf, said they were prepared to negotiate with the Kenyan government, but would not release MV Faina unless the ransom was paid.

« We are warning France and others who are thinking of carrying out a rescue that we have the power to reach them wherever they are, » he said.

« We are demanding a ransom of at least $35m. »

But later in a tersely-worded statement, a spokesman for the Kenyan government said they had not received any credible demands for a ransom to release the ship.

He went on to say that the government would not negotiate with what it called international criminals, pirates and terrorists, and said efforts to recover the hijacked ship and its cargo would continue.

The BBC’s Karen Allen in Nairobi says there is growing international concern for the fate of the Ukrainian vessel, which went missing in what are considered some of the world’s most dangerous waters.

There are unconfirmed reports, our correspondent says, that it is currently being steered by the pirates towards ports just north of the Somali capital, Mogadishu – an area controlled by Islamist militants.

‘Big business’

On Friday, Ukrainian Defence Minister Yury Yekhanurov confirmed that 33 Russian T-72 tanks and « a substantial quantity of ammunition » were aboard the MV Faina.

The MV Faina was carrying a shipment of battle tanks destined for Kenya

Ukraine’s foreign ministry said the ship had a crew of 21 and was sailing towards the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

The ship’s captain had reported being surrounded by three boats of armed men on Thursday afternoon, it said.

Earlier reports suggested that the cargo had been destined for south Sudan, but Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua confirmed the tanks were heading to Kenya.

« The cargo in the ship includes military hardware such as tanks and an assortment of spare parts for use by different branches of the Kenyan military, » he said.

Security analyst Knox Chitiyo told the BBC the latest incident showed the waters off Somalia’s coast had become a « global security problem ».

« Piracy has become big business and there seems to be no concerted response to the problem, » said Mr Chitiyo, from the London-based Royal United Services Institute.

‘Mother ships’

Authorities in Puntland say they are powerless to confront the pirates, who regularly hold ships for ransom at the port of Eyl.

Senior UN officials estimate the ransoms pirates earn from hijacking ships exceed $100m (£54m) a year.

Pirate « mother ships » travel far out to sea and launch smaller boats to attack passing vessels, sometimes using rocket-propelled grenades.

Last week, France circulated a draft UN resolution urging states to deploy naval vessels and aircraft to combat such piracy.

France, which has troops in nearby Djibouti and also participates in a multi-national naval force patrol in the area, has intervened twice to release French sailors kidnapped by pirates.

Commandos freed two people whose boat was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden earlier this month and in April, six arrested pirates were handed over to the French authorities for trial.

Russia announced on Friday it would start carrying out regular anti-piracy patrols in the waters off Somalia to protect Russian citizens and ships. A warship was sent to the area earlier this week.

Somalia has been without a functioning central government for 17 years and has suffered from continual civil strife.

26/09/08 (B467) BBC / Première confirmation de l’information que nous avions publiée ce matin. Les pirates s’emparent de 30 tanks dans un cargo ukrainien ! (ARDHD : bonjour les dégats !!) // Somalia’s pirates seize 33 tanks (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

A Ukrainian ship seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia was carrying 33 tanks and other weapons, the Ukrainian defence minister has confirmed.

Earlier, the country’s foreign ministry said the ship had a crew of 21 and was sailing under a Belize flag to the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

There has been a recent surge in piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Russia announced on Friday it would start carrying out regular anti-piracy patrols in the waters off Somalia.

A navy spokesman said a warship had been sent to the area earlier this week and the aim of the deployment was to protect Russian citizens and ships.

Somalia has not had an effective national government for 17 years, leading to a collapse of law and order both on land and at sea.

Somali pirates are currently holding more than a dozen hijacked ships in the base in Eyl, a town in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

It was not immediately clear where the Ukrainian ship had been taken.

Speed boats

The Ukrainian foreign ministry said the captain of the Faina cargo ship had reported being surrounded by three boats of armed men on Thursday afternoon

Defence Minister Yury Yekhanurov confirmed that 33 Russian T-72 tanks and « a substantial quantity of ammunition » were aboard.

He said all the weapons had been sold in compliance with international agreements, according to a Ukrainian news agency.

The cargo’s final destination was unclear, with reports suggesting either Kenya or south Sudan.

Security analyst Knox Chitiyo told the BBC the incident showed that the waters off Somalia’s coast had « become a global security problem ».

« Piracy has become big business and there seems to be no concerted response to the problem, » said Mr Chitiyo, from the London-based Royal United Services Institute.

Last week, France circulated a draft UN resolution urging states to deploy naval vessels and aircraft to combat piracy in the area.

France has intervened twice to free French sailors kidnapped by pirates. Commandos freed two people whose boat was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden earlier this month.

After an earlier raid in April, six arrested pirates were handed over to the French authorities for trial.

International navies have been escorting humanitarian deliveries to Somalia, where a third of the population needs food aid.

Flourishing industry

Pirates have seized dozens of ships from the major shipping routes near Somalia’s coast in recent months.

Senior UN officials estimate the ransoms they earn from hijacking ships exceed $100m (£54m) a year.

International navies have been escorting aid deliveries

Pirate « mother ships » travel far out to sea and launch smaller boats to attack passing vessels, sometimes using rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs).

Authorities in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland say they are powerless to confront the pirates, who have been growing in strength.

In Eyl, where ships are held for ransom, a flourishing local industry has developed.

Insurgents in Somalia, not known to have links to the pirates, are currently battling a combination of government troops, their Ethiopian allies and African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu and other parts of southern Somalia.

The US has an anti-terror task force based in neighbouring Djibouti and has carried out several air strikes against the Islamic insurgents, accusing them of sheltering al-Qaeda operatives.

24/09/08 (B466-B) BBC / Les forces de la paix en Somalie, prises pour cibles. Les habitants fuient les pires violences à Mogadiscio, depuis des mois. 15 morts rien que dans les accrochages de mardi // Peacekeepers targeted in Somalia (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

People have started fleeing the worst violence in months

Renewed fighting has broken out in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, with African Union peacekeepers coming under attack from Islamist insurgents.

At least 15 civilians have died since clashes erupted late on Tuesday and people are fleeing the city.

Insurgents attacked Ugandan peacekeepers, who responded with tank and artillery fire.

On Monday about 30 people were killed and dozens wounded in some of the worst violence Mogadishu has seen in months.

The BBC’s Mohammed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says Islamist insurgents have been gaining ground in the city in their fight against the Ethiopian-backed government.

Observers say there has been a change in tactics, with Islamists switching from hit-and-run raids to sustained attacks against peacekeepers.

‘Deafening gunfire’

Tuesday’s clashes happened in the south of the city.

Our reporter says heavily armed insurgents attacked the AU base at K4 – a strategic junction in the south of the city linking the airport and the presidential palace.

Peacekeepers at the K4 base responded by firing into Bakara market, a scene of frequent fighting where most of the victims of Monday’s violence were killed.

A shell hit our house, my father was killed and his body is here

Peacekeepers mired in Somalia

The sounds of deafening gunfire and bombardments could be heard throughout the city overnight, he says.

It was the third sleepless night for residents and the second serious attack against AU peacekeepers in a week.

Peacekeepers have generally been considered friendly since their arrival last year, and residents have been upset by the scale of their retaliation, our reporter says.

Maj Bahoku Barigye, an spokesman for the African Union Mission to Somalia (Amisom), said the peacekeepers had not suffered any causalities nor had their moral been affected.

He denied that the attacks were getting worse.

« I have been here for about eight months and I have not seen any difference whatsoever, » he told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.

‘No lost cause’

But people living by the AU bases have started to flee their homes.

« A shell hit our house, my father was killed and his body is here, and I don’t know where anybody else is, » a distressed woman in the capital told the BBC’s Somali Service.

Local residents told AFP news agency that shelling killed four people in one house and three in another area.

Most of the AU peacekeepers in Somalia are from Uganda

Somalia has been wracked by conflict since 1991, when former President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown.

The Ethiopians intervened in 2006 to help the government oust Islamist forces from the capital and surrounding regions.

The Islamists then launched an insurgency against Somalia’s transitional government.

David Shinn, a former US diplomat who teaches at the George Washington University, said fighters from the hardline al-Shabab militia were trying to assert their authority in order to force the Ethiopians out.

They are trying « to show that they are in a position to perhaps even take control of Mogadishu if the Ethiopian forces were to leave », he told the BBC.

Maj Barigye said it was unrealistic to expect a quick resolution to Somalia’s long-running conflict.

« There is no lost cause here, » he said.

« It’s just a question of time, a question of patience, it’s a question of tolerance, it’s a question of understanding. »

Only Uganda and Burundi have contributed troops to the AU peacekeeping force, which has just 2,000 troops of the 8,000 planned.

But Mr Shinn said adding more peacekeepers would not help.

« The only way out of this mess at the moment is to have a successful negotiation between moderates and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, the ARS, and the transitional federal government, » he said.

The UN has been leading peace negotiations over Somalia in neighbouring Djibouti, but al-Shabab has so far rejected the process.

A ceasefire due to be signed at the end of last week has been delayed for another month.