Tanker attack shows pirates still a threat: Experts

Visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) team members from the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) close in on rigid-hulled inflatable boats to apprehend suspected pirates in Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea, in this February 12, 2009 file photo. (REUTERS)
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Updated 19 May 2020

Tanker attack shows pirates still a threat: Experts

  • Munro Anderson: Piracy used to be concentrated around the coast of Somalia, but now it’s moving toward the Gulf of Aden and the Bab Al-Mandab waterway

LONDON: Despite being repelled, Sunday’s attack on a British-flagged chemical tanker shows that pirates still have the “intention and capacity” to attack ships in the Gulf of Aden and beyond, experts say.
It “would only take one successful hijacking for widespread piracy to be rekindled,” Michael Howlett, director of the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Recording Centre, told Arab News.
“This wasn’t an isolated incident, and it demonstrates that the intention and the capacity to attack vessels are there.”
Maritime security firm Dryad Global said Sunday’s attack was the ninth reported suspicious incident in the Gulf of Aden so far this year.
Munro Anderson, a partner at Dryad Global, told Arab News that there has been a significant increase in reporting of suspicious incidents in the Gulf of Aden this year compared with 2019.
International naval intervention in the region, as well as new legal frameworks for dealing with piracy, have been “instrumental in curtailing piracy in the region,” he said.
But he warned that the attack could represent an evolution in the conduct of piracy in the region.
“Piracy used to be concentrated around the coast of Somalia, but now it’s moving toward the Gulf of Aden and the Bab Al-Mandab waterway,” he said.
“The Gulf of Aden is a chokepoint with over 33,000 transits per year. This kind of activity (piracy) is going to concentrate in this area,” he added.
“The traffic in the Gulf of Aden and Bab Al-Mandab isn’t just commercial shipping. There’s a huge amount of illicit trading, trafficking and migration taking place too.”
The war in Yemen and the actions of Houthi militias in the country, he said, have been a major factor in the uptick of piracy and security issues in the region.
“The overspill from the war in Yemen has also manifested itself in the targeting of Saudi vessels,” Anderson added.
“That’s of course because the Houthis are regional proxies for the (Iranian) IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).”
On its website, the UK Maritime Trade Operations naval authority advises vessels in the area “to exercise extreme caution” due to the risk of piracy and other security incidents.

“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

Updated 31 May 2020

“We were all outraged,” says Arab owner of store at center of US protest firestorm

  • Troops can go in ’very quickly,’ Trump says

CHICAGO: The firestorm of protest, arson and looting that has consumed the US for five days began at the counter of an Arab American grocery store.

Staff working for Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, the owner of Cup Foods, called Minneapolis police after George Floyd, 46, twice tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill to make a purchase.

Officers who arrested Floyd held him to the ground with a knee on his neck, as he pleaded that he could not breathe. He lost consciousness and died later in hospital. One officer has been charged with third-degree murder and further charges are expected.

“What took place outside … was not in our hands,” Abumayyaleh told US TV. “The murder and execution was something done by the police, and it was an abuse of power. The police brutality needs to stop.”

Abumayyaleh said he knew Floyd as a customer, and as someone who was always pleasant. He did not find out until the following morning that the man had died. “We were all outraged,” he said, and Floyd “may not have even known that the bill was counterfeit.”

The store owner and his sons, Samir, Adam and Mahmoud, have gone into hiding in the face of a wave of threats against them on social media. They took down their store’s Facebook page and its landline phone has been disconnected.

Minneapolis has more than 50 Arab- and Muslim-owned stores mostly north of where the incident occurred, all operating under statewide COVID-19 restrictions. Arab store owners said they feared speaking out publicly about the incident.

An unidentified man who answered the phone at one Arab-owned store told Arab News that both the killing of Floyd and vandalism against businesses “is wrong.”

Since Floyd died last Tuesday, protesters have vandalized, looted and burned down more than 200 stores in Minneapolis. On Friday and Saturday, the violence spread to New York, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, Atlanta and Charlotte North Carolina.

In Minnesota, protesters maintained a daily vigil in front of the Cup Foods store at 3759 Chicago Avenue, painting walls and the street with murals and graffiti in memory of Floyd. After four nights of confrontations in the city, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz activated the state’s national guard on Saturday for the first time since the Second World War.

US President Donald Trump said troops could be deployed if local authorities requested their help. “We could have our military there very quickly,” he said.