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.

 

Egypt court hands Al-Jazeera reporters three years in prison

Brief truce between Syria regime and rebels collapses

Deadly terrorist blast rocks Karanah suburb in Bahrain

Mounting death toll of security forces triggers questions in Turkey

Toll in Libya shipwreck tragedy rises to 111

Kurdish forces free seven Iraq villages from clasps of ISIS

UN to host new round of Libya peace talks next week

US names ‘First Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs’

Al-Qaeda lashes 10 in Yemen for blasphemy, alcohol

Turkey PM to form cabinet ahead of November polls

Iraq PM orders forces to prepare to open Green Zone

71 'Syrians' dead in Austria truck tragedy

UN conference on plight of minorities persecuted by IS

Spain judge accuses suspect of running IS Morocco network

Yemen army recruits 4,800 southern fighters

Israel to use agriculture to win friends in Africa

Syrian refugees desert Middle East for Europe

At least 76 die as boat sinks off Libya

UN pursues Syria chemical weapons probe

US says IS cyber jihadist killed in Syria strike

Iran premieres big-budget epic film 'Muhammad'

S.Sudan govt calls peace deal 'reward for rebellion'

Serbia, Macedonia urge EU action on migrants

South Sudan peace deal given cautious welcome

Two Iraqi generals in Anbar suicide bomb attack

IS seizes five villages from rebels in Syria's Aleppo

Syria regime, rebels agree new 48-hour truce for three towns

Shebab gunmen ambush Somali army convoy

Iraq PM plans to implement constitutional reform

Muslims not doing enough to fight IS: Queen Rania

Lebanon charges radical Islamist Al-Assir with 'terrorism'

Qaeda group blows up Yemen army HQ in Mukalla

Palestinian rivals agree ceasefire in Lebanon camp

New migrant tragedy in Mediterranean: 40 people dead, 2,000 in danger

Tehran's shoe-shine man in a red stiletto

Saudi King to meet Obama next month on first trip to US as monarch

Turkey PM invites pro-Kurdish MPs into caretaker cabinet

Car bomb attack kills Syria opposition commander in Turkey

Arab League postpones meeting on joint military force

Erdogan sends clear message to voters: It’s either AKP or instability!

South Sudan leader meets regional leaders ahead of peace deal

Saudi Arabia ‘holding’ key suspect in 1996 Khobar bombing

Israel releases second group of migrants from desert facility

US military may have skewed reports on progress against ISIS

Aid groups launch joint call to end Gaza blockade