First Published: 2009-10-29

 
Harardhere: the cradle of Somali piracy
 

It is tiny Somali fishing village is main base for group of pirates currently holding several other ships.

 

Middle East Online

By Jean-Marc Mojon - NAIROBI

A lucrative business

Harardhere, off the shores of which a British couple was being held hostage Thursday, is a tiny Somali fishing village which is home to a powerful pirate boss called "Big Mouth" and the undisputed piracy capital of the world.

Located some 300 kilometres (180 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu, Harardhere is the main base for a group of ransom-hunting pirates currently holding several other ships.

The village lies some distance from the coast and is populated mainly by members of the Suleiman tribe, a branch of Somalia's dominant Hawiye clan.

Harardhere was never a typical sleepy fishing village and has always had a reputation for lawlessness, a place where the rifle supercedes any other form of authority.

"When in Mogadishu, you have to earn your money, when in Harardhere, just use guns." This popular Somali saying has sealed the village's image as a breeding ground for bandits and warlords.

Harardhere is considered the birthplace of modern Somali piracy, which has since 2007 turned the Horn of Africa's waters into the world's most dangerous, spurring the global naval powers into dispatching unprecedented numbers of warships to the area.

Piracy in Harardhere started in 2003-2004 as the business idea of one man, whose foot soldiers took the British yachting couple last week: Mohamed Abdi "Afweyne" (Somali for "big mouth").

"He had no clue about the sea... On technical matters related to boats, I had to teach him from scratch and the first times we went out to sea, he was sick all the time," one of his associates recalled.

Afweyne comes from an area and clan with no experience of piracy, but he head-hunted some of the most prominent pirates from the northern breakaway region of Puntland for his start-up.

"Harardhere provided the perfect base for the pirates as it was far away from the fractions in the Somali civil war," Norwegian researcher Stig Jarle Hansen explained in a recent report on piracy.

The expert said the quiet political environment allowed Afweyne to keep all the money for himself and his group, expanding rapidly as ransoms were re-invested to upgrade and not wasted on bribes.

Five years later, Afweyne is Somalia's pirate capo, having made world headlines by capturing a Saudi supertanker larger than his hometown and opened an international can of worms with the seizure of an arms-laden Ukrainian ship.

On a UN watchlist for breaking the arms embargo, Afweyne is rumoured to have briefly been a member of the Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab group's 10-man cabinet and was spotted in Libya last month at the time of the celebrations marking Moamer Gathafi's 40 years in power.

He has escaped death and arrest several times during raids by the Islamic Courts Union, the Islamist group that briefly controlled most of Somalia in 2006 before being ousted by Ethiopian troops.

In 2008, Somali piracy attracted international attention, with the shipping industry scrambling to contain the soaring costs of anti-piracy measures and warships from dozens of nations rushing to the region.

Pirates launched their attacks from several bases along Somalia's coastline -- Africa's longest -- including Harardhere and Hobyo in central Somalia, Garaad, Ras Alula and Eyl in Puntland.

With the authorities of Puntland upping the pressure on the pirates and northern waters in and around the Gulf of Aden now heavily patrolled, nearly all the latest attacks have taken place closer to the Seychelles and originated in Harardhere or Hobyo.

Piracy is one of the only flourishing trades in war-ravaged Somalia and Harardhere has gentrified slightly in recent months.

Handsome ransoms are redistributed in the community to ensure local support and pirates have started building new houses and buying new cars.

 

16 killed in Israeli shelling of UN school in Gaza

Islamists capture key Benghazi army base

US plans largest ever sale of lethal missiles to Iraq

Mosul’s residents rise up against jihadists

Qatar invests in Israeli soccer

Militants fire at Tunisia army helicopter

Italian fire-fighting planes to come to Libya rescue

Syria rebels advance towards Hama military airport

Bloodshed in Gaza surges amid no truce

Major western powers call for Libya ceasefire

US-Israeli ties sink to new depths over Gaza war

UN warns buying oil from terrorists could lead to sanctions

Air Algerie crash black boxes sent to France

Warning of Tripoli catastrophe after huge oil depot blaze

US, UN call for immediate Gaza ceasefire

Egypt army kills 14 jihadists in restive Sinai Peninsula

Calls for temporary Gaza ceasefire fall on deaf ears

Yemen army foils new Qaeda attempt to seize military posts

Investigators need ‘few days’ to probe cause of Algeria plane crash

Tunisia army suffers more losses in open war with terrorism

Jihadists advance amid escalation in Syria anti-regime offensive

Iraq Shiite militia takes bloody revenge against ‘Islamic State’ in Baquba

Fierce clashes kill at least 38 people in Benghazi

Israel resumes devastating military assault on Gaza

Thousands face famine as food security situation worsens in Somalia

Death toll in Gaza climbs as fragile ceasefire reveals destruction

Egypt summons Turkey charge d'affaires for second time in one week

‘Islamic State’ jihadists dynamite Shiite shrine in Mosul

US evacuates embassy staff in Libya over ‘real risk’

Investigators begin 'difficult' probe into Air Algerie plane disaster

Armed men snatch Head of Baghdad Provincial Council

‘Islamic State’ beheads Syrian soldiers in Raqa

Kerry in Paris for talks on long-term Gaza truce

Hezbollah chief speaks out on Gaza

Two rival Islamic states in Syria power struggle

Crete protest against Syria chemicals destruction in Mediterranean

74 killed in IS assault on Syria regime territory

Iran confirms arrest of Washington Post correspondent

Somali 'Shebab commanders' killed in AU offensive

Paris: survivors of Air Algerie jet crash 'unlikely'

Jordan shots down drone near Syria border

Gaza civilian toll spiralling to above 800

UN urges Europe to tackle Mediterranean migrant crisis

From Israel with ‘virus’: Death threat letter reaches Palestinian mission in France

Ordeal of ‘apostasy’ woman ends with departure from Sudan