A prominent official at the Somali Foreign Ministry has stated that the Somali Government might move officially against the pirates who hijacked the Saudi oil tanker and that this move might take the form of military action to liberate the super tanker anchored off the Somali coasts.
But he pointed out that the timing of this move "depends on the desire of the tanker's owners", and noted that the latter are asking the Somali Government to wait and not attack the pirates. He added: "They are withholding us from acting."
Muhammad Jami, the Somali Foreign Ministry undersecretary and the second-in-command in it, told "Mareeg online" by telephone contact from Dubai:
The local administration in the area where the Saudi tanker is anchored talked to the pirates through intermediaries and asked them to release the tanker because it belongs to a fraternal country, Saudi Arabia. But the pirates refused and insisted on demanding a ransom.
News reports said yesterday [21 Nov] that Somali groups have moved to back the pirates. But the Somali official denied these reports and pointed out that the tribal leaders in that area were leading moves to liberate the Saudi tanker on the basis that it is impermissible to detain the ship of an Islamic country and blamed the media which he accused of blowing the tanker's value out of proportion which prompted the pirates to raise the value of the ransom.
The Somali official said "the Somali Government is somewhat weak and does not have an adequate army" and pointed out in this context that Somalia had asked the Arab countries to contribute to the establishment of a naval force to operate off the Somali coasts "but they refused and even did not show an interest in the issue."
He went on to point out that the pirates operating off the Somali coasts "are criminals benefiting from the chaos in this region" and added that any effort made, whether it is Arab or American, to end the piracies in the Somali coasts areas would be useless without the existence of a land force that provides the naval forces with the information about the pirates' activities on land.
He said the "the Somalis' knowledge of the region is greater than that of others." While reports referred to the possible bombardment of the Somalia port of Eyl, the Somali Foreign Ministry undersecretary said: "This will be useless if not carried out within the framework of joint forces of which Somalia is part due to its knowledge of the region's map."
Observers are expecting the piracies to escalate in the coming stage for several reasons which Riyad Qahwaji, director of the "Near Eastern and Gulf Institute for Military Analysis" sums up as the absence of joint intelligence teams which should be present in Somalia, on land, which collate information about the sea pirates' movements and activities and which is backed by naval forces that target the pirates at sea. He added to "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" that air patrols are also needed to monitor the pirates' movements in this region.