TANZANIAN NAVY UNITS CAPTURE PIRATES NEAR MAFIA ISLAND
These fellows are getting more daring by the day now and we are really worried that there are militants amongst them who might try to do something similar here like they did in Kenya was the comment of a regular source when asked to give a perspective on breaking news of pirates being captured a short distance away from Mafia Island yesterday night.
An oil prospecting vessel was attacked by a group of at least 7 ocean terrorists of Somali origin but when the attack was radioed in the Tanzanian navy units in the area immediately deployed to intercept the pirates. Upon closing in on the pirates a fire fight reportedly ensued before the navy personnel overpowered them and took them into custody. They are expected to be interrogated by Tanzanian security in the morning before being produced in court where they will be charged with piracy, illegal entry to Tanzania, armed robber, illegal possession of firearms and a range of other charges, likely to include terrorism.
Tanzania has been benefitting of a very recent joint training exercise organized by SADC, which has been beefing up capabilities to fight ocean terrorism after the Somalis had reportedly expanded their radius all the way to the Mozambique coastline. Tanzania also recently held talks with the Seychelles towards joint responses, training and security cooperation, as the Seychelles have in the past taken the lead to robustly respond to piracy and ocean terror, recognized there as a matter of national security.
This development comes hot on the heels of abductions of foreign nationals from remote Kenyan beach resorts and the tourism fraternity has called upon the Tanzanian government to step up security and surveillance from Pemba to Zanzibar to Mafia Island and all along the coastal strip to protect beach resorts, tourists and wananchi.
As reported here a while ago it was the vigilance of fishing communities which had led to the arrest of pirates before, who when making landfall to replenish water and food were caught in the process. However, in ever more daring ways are the Somalis now penetrating further into the Indian Ocean and further South than ever before and this is now raising the stakes that Islamic militant groups linked to Al Shabab could use a new strategy to widen their area of operation and starting to strike at tourism targets and other economic and infrastructural assets, doing the bidding of their Al Qaida masters.
Subsequently have calls intensified to resolutely attack Al Shabab strongholds in Somalia while also denying pirates safe haven on land, implementing a full sea and air embargo on Somalia and beefing up the troop levels of the African Union force to expand operations. This however may call for a change in mandate from a peace keeping mission, a misnomer in any case, to allow for offensive operations until peace has been restored in Somali, a representative government installed and a major reconstruction effort can bring back economic activity and inject some level of prosperity back to the country divided by civil war and strife since the overthrow of the Siad Barre regime in 1991. Watch this space.