Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Saeed Sheikh Hassan, an academic close to the negotiations taking place with the pirates in Somalia to release the Saudi oil tanker hijacked last week, has stated that the negotiations between the notables and elders of “Haradhere” town with the hijackers of the oil tanker “Sirius Star” were moving toward reducing the ransom demanded but there were no hopeful signs that they would release it in return for nothing.
Hassan told Asharq al-Awsat in a telephone interview from “Haradhere”, where the tanker is believed to be anchored, said the negotiations with the hijackers were proceeding on two fronts. The first concerns the negotiations through telephone contacts that Somali Government officials are holding from Mogadishu with the notables and elders of Haradhere and the second concerns direct negotiations undertaken by the tribal elders with the pirates somewhere outside the town (he refused to name the location).
He added: “At present (yesterday afternoon), the direct negotiations are continuing between the tribal notables and elders on one side and the pirates on the other in a location outside the town. They will continue until tonight.” Hassan, who has been researching the piracy phenomenon for more two months and moving between the towns of “Eyl” and “Haradhere”, stressed he did not meet a single eyewitness who had seen the tanker for one week, adding that the information available to him indicated that it was in the open sea near the port.
He went on to say that the information he has gathered confirms that the pirates come to “Haradhere” town, which is the gathering point, from three main towns which are: The Somali capital Mogadishu, Bosaso, the capital of the “Puntland” province, and “Duso Mareb”, one of “Puntland’s” towns. He added: “There is much backing and cooperation between these groups in terms of exchanging information and weapons and providing protection for each other.” Asked if he knew the number of the groups carrying out the piracy acts, he answered: “We do not know yet the exact number. But the pirates have security cover from the people and citizens in the region because they belong to the three largest tribes in Somalia: Al-Darud, Al-Hawiyah, and Al-Dir.”
He said the ones carrying out the piracy acts in the fields are aged between 18 and 25 and added: “This is a generation that was born as the Somali State was collapsing in 1991. They were born to find themselves facing a continuous and bloody civil war and no schools or institutes. Their option was to take up arms. Unfortunately, this group’s individuals represent the majority of the pirates.” He pointed out that the regional and international communities were responsible for turning the youths into criminals and pirates in Somalia “since they did not help calm the political and military situation or help development by building schools and institutes that would have provided them with the education that helps find work later on.” On the signs of wealth that were noticed with some pirates, he said: “It is the result of what they do with the ransom. They additionally sell the products they seize from some commercial ships, either in the black market or others.” Hassan stressed that there was no foreign party helping these gangs in one way or another, saying there is much cooperation among them and they obtain weapons from the arms markets in neighboring countries, specifically Yemen.