Briton Kidnapping Update: Kenya, Shabab & Pirates

Earlier this month, one Briton was kidnapped and another murdered by what appears to be either Somali pirates or Shabaab members.  The debate still seems to be up in there.

Kenyan authorities are seeking the arrest of Famau Kahale- a Kenyan fugitive that’s been on the run for more than seven years.  The Daily Nation article noted that Kahale:

“defected to the other side of Somalia in 2006 and joined the former Somalia Islamic Courts and later al Shabaab. He is now a ring leader of a small group of pirates,”

It appears local Kenyan resort staff helped kidnappers abduct Judith Tebbutt.  These kidnappers are believed to have sold her to pirates based in Kismayo, Somalia.  It remains unclear whether these pirates are connected to al Shabab. British authorities appear to be negotiating for her ransom.

This chain of events continues to be troubling.  Somali pirates up until this event had largely targeted ships in the open sea.  I wonder if the increased protection of merchant ships and changes in their routes have led the pirates to seek other forms of revenue further from home- resulting in this recent kidnapping across the border in Kenya.  The kidnapping will have a serious effect on Kenyan tourism; one of the few economic engines for Kenya’s coast.  Additionally, if the pirates ultimately have connections with Shabab, this would suggest that Shabab likely controls the most resources in the region and can sufficiently pay for hostages and then negotiate a higher ransom.  The kidnapping supply chain issue is one Alex Thurston and I discussed many months ago with regard to the Sahel.

Please let me know if you find any credible updates on this issue.

New Twist in Somali Piracy

Somali pirates killed four captured Americans caught several hundred miles off the coast of Oman. Reasons for the Somali pirates killing the Americans appear uncertain at this point.  This will be an interesting case study in the coming weeks as more evidence surrounding the murders surfaces.  Reports note that more than 15 pirates occupied the boat with the four captives; well over capacity for the craft.  Initial reports suggest the pirates were possibly inexperienced, stressed from tight quarters, hungry, or all of the above.  U.S. Navy Seals arrived quickly after the shootings but couldn’t save any of the four Americans.  Alex Thurston at Sahel Blog and I have debated different approaches for dealing with kidnapping. I’ve got several initial thoughts reference this case and will be looking for more news reports on this topic in the coming days.

  • Why did the Somali pirates bungle this operation? In general, these pirates understand these operations and conduct them regularly.  So why did they resort to violence and squander negotiations for ransoms?
  • Were they killed because they were Americans? The Navy Seals had previously killed three of four captors of an American.  Did these pirates realize they made a mistake capturing Americans and tried to cut their losses?  Or was this retaliation?  I don’t believe it was either, but I’m curious.
  • Why didn’t the pirates take the prisoners to a mother ship? Usually, those detained are quickly moved up the kidnapping supply chain.  Did the U.S. Navy get there too quickly for the kidnappers?
  • How will this affect Somali piracy overall? I wonder if these killings will change international responses to Somali piracy and kidnapping.  Will countries be more or less aggressive?  I also wonder if Somali pirates will change their calculations in targeting foreign boats.  Or, will they police their own and use this as an example of what not to do?

Looking forward to more coverage of this story if Somali piracy stories can make it into the news cycle amidst all the uprisings.