Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Sheikh Abdul Raheem Isa Ado, the spokesman for the Islamic Courts’ forces in Somalia has stated that the Courts have issued warnings to the pirates responsible for the hijacking of the Saudi Sirius Star oil tanker on November 17 at the port city of Haradheere, Puntland. The Courts demanded that the pirates end the operation, release the oil tanker and ensure that the crew is returned to safety.
In this exclusive interview, Abdul Raheem spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat by phone from the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
The interview proceeded as follows:
Q: Do you have any new information about the hijacked oil tanker?
A: No, I do not have any information.
Q: Are there any plans for military intervention to secure the release of the tanker?
A: There are ongoing attempts; we have already warned them [the hijackers]. After that, we will cut off supplies that reach them from the mainland and we will do everything in our capacity to have the boat released.
Q: Are your forces in the city [of Haradheere]?
A: Yes, the city is in under our control, we’re there and our forces are there. Moreover, its surrounding villages are under the control of the [Islamic] Courts.
Q: So could you confirm that there will be military intervention taken against the pirates?
A: There have been attempts; firstly, we have issued warnings to them to release their hostages without any conditions. Secondly, we are stopping their supplies on land and after that we will spare no effort and do everything in our capacity [to ensure the tanker’s release] but I cannot say that intervention will take place at a certain time or on a specific day. However, we will try our best, God willing, to set the boat free because it belongs to an Arab and Islamic country. It is not enough to sit by and watch and not to intervene.
Q: But pirates have hijacked Egyptian and Yemeni ships before, why didn’t you intervene then?
A: We have always been thinking about putting an end to piracy against ships belonging to non-Muslims. We are against piracy and the horrific acts that pirates carry out but this ship [the Sirius Star] was close to the city that we are in; this is the first reason. We do not approve of piracy against Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Our forces are present in the city [of Haradheere] and there is security, as well as the [Islamic] Courts and that is why we announced our position before.
Q: Some consider your statement as a way of courting Saudi Arabia. What is your response to this?
A: No, Saudi Arabia is our sister, there is no courting. Egypt, Yemen and all Arab and Islamic countries are our sisters and it is the same for the rest of world. We do not condone the hijacking of ships and we have always thought about how we can try to intervene in cases of piracy but from now on we will intervene. Let me tell you that there are ships that enter Somali seas illegally and there are ships that come in and dump waste and there are pirates who are not Somalis.
Q: What is the number of your forces in the city?
A: I cannot state the size of our forces to the media but there are enough for us to work and intervene, but this will take place at the right time and place and this will be decisive.
Q: The Shabaab movement denied that it is going to confront pirates; are the disputes between you?
A: The movement is our sister and there are no problems between us.
Q: Has there been any personal communication between yourselves and the pirates?
A: Yes, our brothers in Haradheere have spoken to them and warned them and there is an office that contacts them.
Q: Thank you, is there anything you would like to add?
A: We are fighting our Ethiopian enemy that occupies our land and we say to all Arab and Islamic countries and their nations that they should know that we are defending our land, our religion and our nation and they must help our afflicted people.