Dozens of Ships/Hundreds of Hostages Currently Held by Somali Pirates
Kirk: Recall Jefferson’s Policies with Authority to Naval Commanders to Attack/Sink Pirates
$12 Billion Cost to Western Economy and Security
Washington, DC – United States Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) recently completed a mission to Somalia and eastern Africa to investigate the rise of piracy involving super tankers bound for the US. As the first U.S. Senator to visit Somalia since 1991, he also went into Somali and Kenyan prisons holding pirates, went aboard Chinese and US warships patrolling pirate zones and talked to officials in Bahrain, Djibouti and Kenya on ways to stop it.
With the successful conclusion to the mission, Kirk issued a detailed report, releasing first classified images of ships under pirate control as well as proposed changes in American policy that would end the growing national security threat posed by pirates and the terrorist organizations they fund. The findings and policy recommendations are included in a report released today.
“With pirates holding two dozen major ships and hundreds of hostages, their multi-million dollar ransoms have become a major source of funding for Somali Al Qaeda affiliates running the largest terror training camps on earth,” said Kirk.
“Unless our policy becomes more aggressive to attack pirates, we will see a huge increase in terrorism from Al Qaeda affiliates that feed off pirate ransoms.” According to Kenyan government estimates, 30% of ransoms paid to pirates — over $50 million — are funneled to the largest terror training camps in the world run by Somalia’s East African Al Qaeda/Al Shabaab organization.
Pirate attacks have increased by 300% over the last three years and currently, there are over 20 merchant ships under pirate control with over 480 western and allied sailors held hostage. In April 2011, the largest ransom ever paid, $11 million, was given to pirates who captured the oil tanker, Irene. The total cost of piracy, including ransoms, insurance, naval forces, imprisonment and diversions now totals up to $12 billion annually.
Following his mission to Somalia, Senator Kirk outlined several policy proposals he will advance to assist American and Allied navies, as well as local governments, to end piracy:
• Ban ransom payments that support the expansion of pirate operations and fund East African Al Qaeda/Al Shabaab terror,
• Expand Rules of Engagement giving local naval commanders authority to attack and disable pirate “motherships,” and tactical authority to arrest pirates and rescue crews,
• Blockade the three primary pirate ports and shorelines, including the El Danaan anchorage, where 12 western tankers/merchant ships with 290 hostages are held,
• Reward frontline Somali communities with economic assistance if they confront or convert Al Shabaab or pirate-controlled areas,
• Expand prisons in Puntland (Somalia) and Kenya to incarcerate hundreds of new pirates operating across the Indian ocean, and
• Provide military assistance to Somali forces who regain control of Al Shabaab or pirate-controlled areas.
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