Somalia’s prime minister said on Wednesday that foreign navies patrolling off Somalia’s coast have failed to discourage piracy “an inch” and condemned firms paying ransoms to sea gangs hijacking ships. Somali buccaneers have made millions of dollars seizing vessels in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, and have driven up insurance rates for merchant ships passing through the waterways linking Europe to Asia.

somali-pm“The only reason people (become pirates) is because the companies are deciding to pay ransoms,” Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke told reporters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. “That is what encouraged several young kids to go into the waters. Our policy has always been ‘don’t pay ransoms’,” said the Western-educated son of an assassinated former president.

Sharmarke’s government is trying to quell an Islamist-led insurgency onshore that has displaced one million people and killed thousands. But international attention has focused on pirates operating in the strategic sea routes. Organisers of a donors’ meeting in Brussels this week say the transitional government needs $165 million over the next year to build its security forces.

Sharmarke said foreign navies patrolling Somalia’s coastline have not been able to stem the sea gangs. There were 18 pirate attacks in March alone, the International Maritime Bureau says. “They (the navies) have not discouraged (the pirates) an inch. The only way out is to have a Somali security force on the ground that can prevent piracy before it happens,” he said.


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