Outgunned Somali pirates can hardly believe their luck | world | Hindustan Times
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Outgunned Somali pirates can hardly believe their luck

world Updated: May 10, 2012 01:30 IST

The Absalon is a modern and well-equipped Danish warship, one of a new generation. It has stealth technology to avoid enemy radar, ballistic missiles that could sink an aircraft carrier and a small company of special forces divers, with their own speedboat.

So it is hardly surprising the Somali pirates are feeling a little outgunned at the moment.

The pirates take to the seas off the Horn of Africa in small dhows, and even smaller skiffs, armed with old machine guns and pistols, wearing flip-flops, and gambling that they will be able to hijack a vessel before they run out of food, or drown.

Over the past year, the number of successful pirate attacks fell from 45 to 24, and more than 120 others were foiled. But nobody involved in the military mission off the coast of east Africa believes the battle has been won. In fact, many officers feel the counter-piracy operation has reached a critical point.http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/5/10_05_pg15a.jpg

Commanders estimate that for every pirate captured and sent for trial, another three or four are released. This year dozens of pirates have been put quietly back to shore, despite good evidence to support prosecution. None of the countries in the region want to take a lead in piracy cases, and those that have been persuaded to take suspects-notably the Seychelles and Kenya - are essentially full up, and showing reluctance to take any more.

None of the governments sending warships to the area, including India, wants them either, even though the pirates cost the world economy an estimated $6.9bn last year.

So, without fanfare, more and more of the suspected pirates are being freed, the incentive to hunt them is slightly diminished, and the Somali criminals can hardly believe their luck. "When I have told them (the pirates) hat we are putting them back to shore they are more or less celebrating," said Anders Friis, captain of the Absalon.

The Absalon has captured 58 suspected pirates during six months patrolling the Somali coast. Only eight are facing trial.

In February, it seized a crew of 17 suspected pirates and waited to hear which nation would volunteer to take them for prosecution. Thirty-eight days later, they got the answer: not one.