SE Asia pi­rates shift from hi­jack­ings to kid­nap­pings

The Myanmar Times - - World -

PI­RATES are shift­ing from hi­jack­ing cargo ships to the more lu­cra­tive crime of kid­nap­ping for ran­som, a re­port said, after Philip­pine Is­lamic mil­i­tants killed a Ger­man sailor and kid­napped an­other ear­lier this week.

“Piracy has changed in the past three years,” said Devlin McS­tay, data an­a­lyst at IHS Mar­itime and Trade, which is part of global mar­ket in­tel­li­gence firm IHS Markit.

“We are see­ing the num­ber of kid­nap­pings rise in the piracy hotspots of South­east Asia and West Africa.”

On Novem­ber 7, the Philip­pine mil­i­tary con­firmed the Abu Sayyaf group had killed a Ger­man woman sailor and ab­ducted her com­pan­ion from their yacht off the south­ern Philip­pine coast.

The Ger­man man had co­in­ci­den­tally ear­lier been kid­napped by pi­rates in So­ma­lia.

Sus­pected Abu Sayyaf mil­i­tants last month also kid­napped the cap­tain and a Filipino crew mem­ber of a South Korean cargo ship in the south­ern Philip­pines.

The mil­i­tary said the ab­duc­tion marked the first time that kid­nap­pers in the area had tar­get­ted a large ship, with pre­vi­ous at­tempts usu­ally fo­cus­ing on smaller ves­sels.

While the Abu Sayyaf ’s lead­ers have in re­cent years pledged al­le­giance to the Is­lamic State group, an­a­lysts say they are mainly fo­cused on a lu­cra­tive kid­nap­ping busi­ness rather than re­li­gious ide­ol­ogy.

The mil­i­tants ear­lier this year be­headed two Cana­dian hostages they had seized on land, after fail­ing to col­lect a ran­som.

Ridzwan Rah­mat, a Sin­ga­pore­based naval an­a­lyst at IHS Jane’s, said a clam­p­down by south­east Asian gov­ern­ments on the black mar­ket trade in bunker oil taken from hi­jacked ves­sels may have forced pi­rates to con­sider “kid­nap-for-ran­som op­er­a­tions that could be more lu­cra­tive fi­nan­cially”.

IHS data showed there were 44 pi­rate kid­nap­pings in­volv­ing ship crew in West Africa and South­east Asia be­tween Jan­uary and Septem­ber this year, up from 19 the pre­vi­ous year and just nine in all of 2014.

In South­east Asia, “we are now see­ing ter­ror­ist groups, such as Abu Sayyaf, em­ploy­ing a modus operandi more com­monly as­so­ci­ated with pi­rate groups”, Mr Ridzwan said.

Be­tween March and July 2016, armed cells af­fil­i­ated with the Abu Sayyaf are sus­pected to have been be­hind at least six known cases of kid­nap­ping for ran­som at sea.

The vic­tims were from five tugs tow­ing barges and a fish­ing trawler.

“This lat­est spate of at­tacks at sea, tak­ing place also within a rel­a­tively short time pe­riod, rep­re­sents an es­ca­la­tion com­pared to what pre­vi­ously were iso­lated in­ci­dents,” Mr Ridzwan added. –

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