mogadishu - The hijacked Sirius Star is anchored off Harardhere, a tiny Somali village which could fit in its entirety on the bridge of the Saudi super-tanker but has emerged as the piracy capital of the world.
Located some 300 kilometers (180 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu, Harardhere is the main base for a group of pirates currently holding the Sirius Star, an arms-laden Ukrainian cargo and other ships.
The village lies some distance from the coast and is populated mainly by members of the Hawiye clan, the largest in Somalia and the backbone of the opposition to the government and Ethiopia’s military presence.
Yet Harardhere was never a typical sleepy fishing village and has always had a reputation for lawlessness, a place where the rifle supercedes any other form of authority. “When in Mogadishu, you have to earn your money, when in Harardhere, just use guns.” This popular Somali saying has sealed the village’s image as a breeding ground for bandits and warlords.
The latest figure in Harardhere’s hall of infamy is Mohamed Abdi “Afweyne” – Somali for “big mouth” – who is believed to be the mastermind of the group of pirates operating in the area.
He has escaped death and arrest several times during raids by the Islamic Courts Union, the group that briefly controlled most of Somalia in 2006 before being ousted by Ethiopian troops.
For years, acts of piracy in Somalia’s waters focused in and around the Gulf of Aden, further north up the Somali coastline, or further south where a group operating out of Kismayo targeted foreign boats fishing illegally.
Harardhere came to the fore in 2006 when a large ransom was paid for the release of a South Korean ship as well as several other merchant vessels.
The group of pirates operating out of Harardhere and the coastal village of Hobyo, further north, is one of the most recent but also the boldest working the busy maritime routes off Somalia’s long coastline. Piracy is one of the only flourishing trades in war-ravaged Somalia and Harardhere has gentrified in recent months. – AFP