Those pesky Somali pirates may have made a mistake: they attracted the attention of the Russians.
By hijacking a Ukrainian freighter full of armament, the pirates have earned a visit from a Russian warship. The British are required by law to give captured Somali pirates asylum when they reach the UK, because the poor buccaneers may face persecution (!) if they are returned to their homeland, but one assumes the Russians will not be observing such niceties.
According to the AP:
Russian Warship Heads to Africa After Pirate Attack
A Russian warship on Friday rushed to intercept a Ukrainian vessel carrying 33 battle tanks and a hoard of ammunition that was seized by pirates off the Horn of Africa — a bold hijacking that again heightened fears about surging piracy and high-seas terrorism.
U.S. naval ships were in the area and “monitoring the situation” and a U.S. Defense Department official said Washington was concerned about the attack. “I think we’re looking at the full range of options here,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
It was unclear whether the pirates who seized the 530-foot-long cargo ship Faina on Thursday knew what it carried. Still, analysts said it would be extremely difficult to sell such high-profile weaponry like Russian tanks..
The hijacking, with worldwide pirate attacks surging this year, could help rally stronger international support behind France, which has pushed aggressively for decisive action against Somali pirates.
Russian navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo told The Associated Press that the missile frigate Neustrashimy left the Baltic Sea port of Baltiisk a day before the hijacking to cooperate with other unspecified countries in anti-piracy efforts.
But he said the ship was then ordered directly to the Somalia coast after Thursday’s attack.
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U.S. Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said the United States was worried about the ship’s cargo. “A ship carrying cargo of that nature being hijacked off the coast of Somalia is something that should concern us, and it does concern us. And we are monitoring the situation and taking a look at what the options might be,” Whitman said.
Roger Middleton, another Chatham House researcher, said it was unlikely the pirates knew there were tanks aboard the Faina, and also said unloading the cargo would be difficult. “Most of their attacks are based on opportunity. So if they see something that looks attackable and looks captureable, they’ll attack it,” he said.
Middleton said it was unclear how the pirates might react if confronted by military action, noting that they have fled from authorities in the past. On the other hand, he said, they are usually well-armed and organized and are based in an unstable country — Somalia. “It could potentially get pretty messy,” he said.
Previous posts about the Somali pirates:
Hat tip: VH