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Maritime News

Somalis in Gujarat jails are not pirates, claims envoy

Somali Ambassador Ebyan Mahamed Salah to India believes that the Somalis caught along the Gujarat coast are not pirates. According to her, they are more likely to be fishermen who had lost their way and were found on the Gujarat seas. Salah added that her government was considering talks with the Indian government for the release of detained men. "They did not possess any weapon or other things that proves them to be pirates," she told TOI, during a conference at the Gujarat National Law University. "We don't want our nationals to be a burden on any other country. We would prefer to take them back to Somalia," she said.

The conference organized by GNLU, which discussed sea piracy, saw participation from around 35 countries and delegates from international organizations such as European Union (EU), International Maritime Organization (IMO), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), UN CGPS Working Group and United Nations Office on Drugs & Crimes (UNODC). Two batches of African nationals were caught along the Gujarat coast on June 20 and 27. Of these 32 wereSomalis and suspected to be pirates. There are more than 100 Somalis languishing in India, all of them caught by the Indian Navy. On Saturday, Salah insisted that the Somali government will not only crack down on piracy in different ways but also put into place an anti-piracy law next year. Speaking at a conference she said the Somali government will introduce a "national security and stabilization plan" from January 2012. Through this plan, Somalia will employ marine police and coast guards to put a check on piracy. Salah also said her government will be tracking the hawala system of money transfer to understand the roots of operation of the pirates and see if they are channeling ransom money to terror organizations. "The hawala system of money transfer has been a problem in tackling the issue of seapirates." When asked about the connection of pirates with Al-Shabab, a militant Islamist group from Somalia, Salah said that it could not be established yet. She said "The cheapest and best way to stop sea piracy is to stop paying ransom." While many delegates agreed that the gravity of the issue lies in the absence of international maritime law other delegates also suggested withdrawal of warships deployed to combat piracy in the sea. Director of ICWA Delhi, Vijay Sakhuja said, "Excessive use of force has resulted in escalation of violence. A total of 2 dozen warships are deployed but the threat has not come down. We should adopt anti-piracy measures by deploying coast guards and marine police. Only a couple of warships could be deployed for emergency situations."

Date: December 2,2011                                                                                   Source: TNN

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