The United States Navy reports that two of its warships encountered a group of suspected pirates off the Somali coast and the pirates' ship opened fire on them. The naval warships returned fire killing one Somali and wounding five.
The pirate attack occurred early on Saturday as the ships were conducting maritime security operations, said a statement by the US Naval Forces Central Command.
Hijackings and piracy have recently surged off Somalia - which has had no central government since 1991. The International Maritime Bureau has warned ships to stay away from the coast because of the attacks. It has recorded 37 attacks since mid-March last year. Ships carrying food aid on behalf of the United Nations are among the hijacked vessels.
The navy statement reported that the two warships -- the USS Cape St. George, a missile cruiser, and the USS Gonzalez, a missile destroyer -- were conducting security operations about 25 miles off the Somali coast when they observed a suspect vessel towing two smaller skiffs. The Gonzalez sent a team to board the vessel and noticed some of the suspected pirates were brandishing rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
According to the navy statement, the suspected pirates then opened fire on the navy ships, which returned fire with mounted machine guns in self-defense. One suspected pirate was immediately killed and a fire started on board the vessel.
The navy said it detained 12 suspects and confiscated a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and automatic weapons. It said the wounded received medical treatment and that none of the US sailors were killed or wounded in the action.
The US warships were patrolling the area as part of a Dutch-led coalition task force. The waters off the Somali coastline have become among the most dangerous in the world for piracy since warlords ousted Somalia's former dictator in 1991 and divided the country amongst themselves.
Piracy in the war-torn country's coastal waters began with the Somali civil war 15 years ago. Armed men in fishing boats equipped with automatic rifles and rocket propelled grenades prowl the waters seeking their prey. Somalia has been without a central government since 1991, when rival warlords with ties to Al-Qaeda took control of the country perpetrating a reign of terror against their own people.
According to one story appearing on Britain's BBC, ransoms are now routinely paid and the going rate is in the region of $500,000 for one ship, its cargo and crew.
The newly elected government of President Abdullahi Yusuf, who has yet to establish control over most of Somalia, has publicly denounced the pirates and has called on the international community to help by patrolling its waters.
The international maritime authorities think this would benefit more than just Somalia but so far no one has offered to help. The Somali government -- a government practically in exile because of warlords, Al-Qaeda and Wahhabi terrorists -- has signed a contract with a US security company that specializes in marine special operations. The hope is that the security firm will put an end to the proliferating piracy in that African region.
New York-based Topcat Marine Security signed a deal worth more than $50 million with the Somali Transitional Federal Government, which is temporarily based in Nairobi, to escort ships traveling through Somali waters.
According to intelligence experts, Somalia has witnessed the growth of a brutal network of Jihad with strong ties to Al-Qaeda. In fact, when the US forces faced a bloody battle in 1995 during what became known as the Black Hawk Down incident, it was Al-Qaeda members joining with a local warlord who killed and wounded US special operations soldiers.
During the 1990s, a group of Saudi-educated, Wahhabi militants arrived in Somalia with the aim of creating an Islamic state in this dismal African country. Also, the renowned Al-Qaeda established an operations base and training camp. They would routinely attack and ambush UN peacekeepers. In addition, they used Somalia to export their brand of terrorism into neighboring Kenya.
The impoverish people who live in the ruined capital of Mogadishu have witnessed Al-Qaeda operatives, jihadi extremists, Ethiopian security services and Western-backed counter-terrorism agents engaged in a bloody war that few support and even fewer understand.
In an incident that gained American press attention, Somali-based pirates armed with rocket-propelled grenades launched an unsuccessful attack on an American cruise ship Seaborn Spirit as it rounded the Horn of Africa with American, British and Australian tourists on board.
The ship came under attack during the early morning hours when the heavily armed terrorists in two speedboats began firing upon the ship with grenade launchers and machine guns. The assailants were repelled by the ships crew who implemented their security measures which included setting off electronic simulators which created the illusion the ship was firing back at the terrorists. It was successful and none of the ships passengers and crew were injured.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.