Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Local pirates in Puntland, northeast of Somalia, have told Asharq Al-Awsat that they are about to launch a counter media campaign to improve their image and reputation and respond to the attempt by various international media organs to depict them as a mere handful of thieves and outlaws.
Representatives of the pirates are planning to hold an imminent secret meeting in the town of Eil, the stronghold of the armed pirates who have disrupted international trade off the Somali coasts, to discuss the ways they believe will help improve their international reputation. A Somali pirate who refused to divulge his name told Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone from the Somali town of Eil “yes, we will hold this meeting. The world is depicting us as terrorists and a handful of criminals. This is wrong. We have a just case and want to present it. We have no other choice but to press ahead with what we do well, which is hijacking ships.”
Though Andrew Mwangura, head of the Seafarers’ Assistance Program who uses Mombassa in Kenya as his base for watching the pirates’ activities, denied to Asharq Al-Awsat any knowledge of this meeting, he revealed in return that the pirates are leaning toward changing the military tactics used in hijacking and controlling ships. He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I have received definite information about this. They (the pirates) are about to change their classical way they have followed over the past years and are now moving toward new acts of piracy overseas. They will reach India for the first time.” He added: “They have apparently acquired money and new military weapons and equipment following their recent successes. They are now investing this success to achieve a qualitative change.” He pointed out that the world should be aware of the real dangers the pirates are causing but stressed that the matter should be viewed objectively, adding that the pirates have fundamental problems which must be solved.