GENERAL

Piracy

11 November According to a report, after three years of relative calm in the waters between Yemen and the Horn of Africa, a strait known as Bab el Mandeb, at least seven security incidents were reported in October. Two of the attacks, one on an Emirati ship and the other on the USS Mason, a US Navy destroyer, were confirmed to have been carried out by Yemeni militants with land-based anti-ship missiles. Two other incidents on 22 October were probably carried out by Somali pirates. Of most concern was an attempted attack on the Galicia Spirit, a liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker, involving a skiff loaded with explosives. The skiff exploded prematurely leaving the tanker unharmed. This attack mirrors the attacks by al Qaeda against USS Cole in 2000 and the MV Limburg in 2002. On 26 October, the oil tanker Melati Satu was targeted with a rocket propelled grenade (RPG). According to the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting centre, there are now just a few attempts at piracy in the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Strait of Malacca, two of the piracy hotspot areas in the late 1990s and 2000s. However, in addition to the resurgence of activity in Bab el Mandeb, piracy is becoming an increasing concern in the Gulf of Guinea and in the waters off the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.

20 November Andrew McLaughlin, Program Officer in charge of Global Maritime Security at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said that a fragile political, economic and security situation in Somalia could provide a fertile ground for piracy to thrive. He added: “Piracy in Somalia has not been defeated but only countered. The threat can recur since the security and economic situation in Somalia remains dire”. He also regretted that Somalia’s limited military capability and high youth unemployment could undermine efforts to eradicate piracy.

24 November NATO ended Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean after a sharp drop in attacks by Somali pirates. The commander of the Danish Air Force detachment that carried out the last Indian Ocean surveillance missions for NATO emphasised that NATO can resume anti-piracy efforts at any time – whether in the Somali basin or Atlantic Ocean. NATO is now shifting resources to deterring Russia in the Black Sea and people smugglers in the Mediterranean.

25 November The European Union Council agreed to extend the mandate of Operation “Atalanta”, the European Union’s counter piracy mission off the coast of East Africa, until 31 December 2018. It also set aside EUR11 million (USD11.6 million) via the “Athens mechanism” to finance the cost of the mission. The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) welcomed the extension of the counter piracy naval operation and said the threat of piracy off the Horn of Africa and Western Indian Ocean was still “extremely high”.

AFRICA

General - Piracy

15 November The ECOWAS Parliament began a five day meeting in Lagos to discuss the strategy in the sub-region towards tackling piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The theme of the meeting was: “Maritime Security and the Fight Against Piracy, the Role of ECOWAS Parliament”. The Speaker of the Parliament said: “The essence of this meeting is to recommend how the ECOWAS maritime safety strategy can be implemented by the executives. Security in the Gulf of Guinea is a big challenge to the region and we have the responsibility as the people’s representatives to discuss the challenge with a view to finding solutions”.

Benin

30 November A spokesman for the Russian Exterior Ministry said that a Greek flagged vessel, Saronic Breeze, with a crew of 20, 18 Russians and two Ukrainians, had been boarded by pirates while sailing in Benin territorial waters the previous day. Benin had yet to confirm the incident. The Russian Embassy in Nigeria later reported that the pirates had kidnapped the Captain, Second Engineer and a cook, all Russian citizens.

Burkina Faso

25 November According to a decree with a list of 84 people, “Arthur Kenneth Elliott, born 11 November 1934 in Perth, in Australia …. A surgeon” has been naturalised a Burkinabe. Along with his wife, Jocelyn (76), an Australian humanitarian worker, he was abducted in January 2015 by al Qaeda linked jihadists, Ansar Dine, from Djibo, a town near the borders with Mali and Niger. Jocelyn Elliott was released in February 2015 as a result of negotiations carried out by the Niger government. Her husband is believed to be held in Burkina Faso although there has not been a sighting of him.

Libya

5 November The Italian Foreign Ministry announced that two Italians, Bruno Cacace and Danilo Calonego, and a Canadian, Frank Poccia, had arrived in Italy after being “liberated” by their kidnappers late on 4 November. The three men, said to have been working for an Italian airport construction company, were kidnapped near the desert town of Ghat in mid-September when armed men stopped the vehicle they were travelling in. A Libyan National Army spokesman said the kidnapping appeared to have been carried out by al Qaeda. The Italian Foreign Ministry said the mission to free the men was successful thanks to the “effective cooperation” between foreign and local authorities. It was also reported that the Italian government had despatched a team of investigators to work on the case shortly after the kidnapping.

20 November The Defence Ministry announced that two of the three members of Defence Ministry staff kidnapped six days earlier had been released by their kidnappers. This was the first announcement about the kidnapping. The three men, Ali al Aghuri, Dawoud al Amrooni and Fadlallah Haroun Shuaibi, were kidnapped by gunmen from the Ashajara Hotel in Dahra on 15 November. It was understood that Shuaibi had not been released. The men’s positions in the Ministry were not clear and there was no official comment as to who might have kidnapped them or the reason for the kidnap.

Mali

23 November The South Africa based NGO, Gift of the Givers, released a statement saying that negotiations are continuing in an effort to obtain the release of two hostages, South African Stephen McGown and Swedish national Johan Gustafson, who have been held for five years by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The two victims were kidnapped on 25 November 2011. Gift of the Givers hostage negotiator, Yehia Dicko, who was appointed in July 2015, is at present in Mali. The NGO said Dicko was asked earlier in the week to meet “influential” people on the Algerian border; however contact has since been lost with him.

Mozambique

14 November According to press reports, Mahebub Gulamo Rassul, the owner of the Tiger Shopping Centre, in the centre of Maputo, escaped a kidnapping attempt in the parking area of his centre as he left work at around 9:00pm. Witnesses said four armed men approached and tried to overpower him and his sons in the basement car park of the shopping centre. Residents with cars parked in the basement came to his aid when he shouted for help.

15 November According to witnesses, Norotam Ramuji, a 79 year old businessman of Asian origin who owns a jewellery shop, Ourivesaria Imperial, in the centre of Maputo, was kidnapped by five armed men who broke into his house in the Sommerschield neighbourhood of the city at about 6:00pm. It was not possible to contact a spokesman from the Police of the Republic of Mozambique to confirm the incident.

Nigeria

3 November The Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral James Oluwole, announced the deployment of four warships and 3,400 troops to tackle piracy, oil theft and vandalism of critical oil and gas installations in the country’s maritime environment. He said the deployment was codenamed “Exercise Sharkbite”. The two day exercise would check the combat readiness of troops to tackle militant attacks on oil and gas installations.

5 November The family of Hajiya Amina Zuber (75) expressed their concern over her health as efforts to secure her release from kidnappers have so far failed to yield results. The victim was kidnapped from Okehi Local Government Area, Kogi State, on 9 September 2016, some days after she had been discharged from hospital. The kidnappers initially demanded N40 million (USD127,000) for her release before reducing to N15 million (USD47,600). The victim’s two sons have offered N2 million (USD6,350) but the kidnappers have refused the offer. On 10 October, the kidnappers allowed the victim to speak by telephone to her son to allay the fears of the family and had instructed the family to stop cooperating with the police.

5 November Obong Amaete Akpan Ntuk, a prominent politician and businessman, was kidnapped together with his wife by unidentified gunmen at around 7:00pm as they travelled back to their home in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, from Ibom International Airport. The kidnapping happened at a village in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area, near Ikot Abasi. The Police Public Relations Officer in Akwa Ibom confirmed the kidnapping and said that an investigation had started. On 7 November, a source close to the family said that the kidnappers had initially demanded a ransom of N50 million (USD158,750) but had then reduced the demand to N1.5 million (USD4,760).

7 November Dakuku Peterside, Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), said the Agency was in partnership with the military and the Nigerian Navy is securing the nation’s waterways that has seen a reduction in piracy attacks in the Niger Delta coastlines. He added that NIMASA is now set to support dialogue between militants and the Federal Government.

11 November Police in Asaba, Delta State, paraded Joshua Okoh and three other kidnapping suspects after they had been arrested in connection with the kidnapping in Warri of Mrs. Judith Osayande, a housewife, for whose release a ransom of N3 million (USD9,525) was paid. N1.8 million (USD5,700) was recovered by police at the time of the arrests. The police said Okoh had confessed to the crimes and he told journalists: “Kidnapping is like a business to me. Lack of a job and bad economy forced me into crime. I chose kidnapping because that is what I can do best. Now I am in trouble, but since I started this business, I’ve never killed anybody. What I and other gang members did was to collect the ransom and let the person go. We did pity them, but we did not have any other option. I have carried out about five successful kidnappings and my share ran into millions of naira. I bought cars with the money and proposed to establish a business before this arrest”

11 November Goriola Oseni (73), the traditional ruler of Iba Town, told a Lagos High Court at the commencement of trial of the four men accused of kidnapping him, that his family had paid a ransom of N15.1 million (USD47,950) to free him after the kidnappers had originally demanded N500 million (USD1.58 million). The traditional ruler was kidnapped at around 8:00pm from his palace while watching TV on 16 July 2016. He was held captive in an unknown location for about three weeks. The ruler’s son, Kazeem, said in his testimony that the family had negotiated the ransom from N500 million to N40 million (USD127,000) but they could not raise that amount especially as the government refused to pay any ransom. The family paid N12 million (USD38,000) to one group of the kidnappers and then an additional N3.1 million (USD9,850) to another group. He had made both ransom drops.

11 November Mrs. Victoria Falodi (61), a widow, was kidnapped at around 8:00am from the door of her residence on Iyewa Olorunsogo Estate, in Ikorodu area of Lagos, as she was taking a mobile telephone for a neighbour to charge at home. Three men armed with an axe, a cutlass and a gun suddenly appeared and took her away by force. The victim’s daughter, Fola, said her mother had vacated her residence a few months ago after a previous attempt to kidnap her. She returned as she thought the law enforcement agencies had curbed kidnapping in the area.

12 November Senior military sources said that the recent ransom paid to Boko Haram in exchange for the release of some of the Chibok girls from Borno State in April 2014, has contributed to the upsurge in killings and disappearance of soldiers engaged in the fight against the insurgents. The sources added that, in spite of denials by the Federal Government, money was paid to secure the release of the kidnapped girls. It is understood that during secret talks between the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and Boko Haram, the militants initially demanded N15.7 billion (USD50 million) for the release of the girls but about a quarter of that demand was paid.

14 November Dr. Biodun Ogunbekun, a priest from the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Diocese of Agodi, Ibadan, was kidnapped by five gunmen from his farm located in Kufi area, along the Olounda-Aba road, Ibadan. Reportedly, the gunmen took him away on foot leaving two of his companions behind at the farm.

14 November Ibikunle Amosun, Ogun State Governor, signed into law a bill stipulating tough penalties for violent crimes including 25 years jail term for convicted kidnappers. He said: “Kidnapping is alien to us in this part of the country and we have come to put an end to it as it now attracts 25 years jail term”.

16 November According to the Police Force Public Relations Officer, the Inspector General of Police’s Intelligence Response Team foiled an attempt to kidnap oil magnate and billionaire Ferri Otedola when they arrested three members of a notorious kidnapping for ransom gang on 23 June 2016. The arrests were achieved through coordinated intelligence gathering and the deployment of technical investigative tools over several weeks. The arrested suspects confessed to having successfully carried out several high-profile kidnappings. The police claimed that the kidnappers were planning to demand a ransom of N1 billion (USD3.17 million) for the billionaire’s release.

16 November Abdulazeez Yusuf, the Administrative Secretary of the Plateau chapter of the Jama’atu Nasirul Islam (JNI), was kidnapped along with his driver near Saminaka in Lere Local Government Area, Kaduna State, as they were driving to Sokoto to present his condolences to a recently bereaved family. The kidnappers contacted the JNI in Kaduna and demanded a ransom of N60 million (USD190,500). The two victims were found abandoned in an area on the outskirts of Kaduna on 18 November. A spokesman for the JNI refused to comment on whether or not a ransom had been paid.

17 November Rivers State Police Command paraded Chinwendu Udensi, a student at Imo State University, and her accomplices who are charged with conniving with her to stage her own kidnapping. She had plotted her own kidnap to demand N6 million (USD19,000) from her “rich but stingy father”. On 6 November at about 4:00pm, Udensi was kidnapped by gunmen in Imo State. The kidnappers contacted her father and demanded N6 million. Agents from the Inspector-General of Police Monitoring Unit set a trap for the kidnappers when they went to collect the ransom money on Obiri Ikwerre flyover. They were arrested along with Udensi who had accompanied them and has confessed to the crime.

17 November Two wives, Rabi Aliyu and Larai Aliyu, of Aliyu Tijani, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftain Affairs, Nasarawa State, were kidnapped when gunmen stormed their residence at around 8:00pm. Although the gunmen fired sporadically into the air, no one was injured. On 20 November, a spokesman for the Nasarawa State Police Command said that the two women had been released as a result of sustained pressure from the police search party and no ransom was paid. He added that no arrests had been made but the investigation was continuing to identify the people responsible for the kidnapping.

18 November Following a spate of kidnappings in Lagos State, the Governor and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) deployed a sizeable number of officials as undercover agents to increase the security in Lagos creeks. More officials are being trained to bolster the force

19 November The Singapore-flagged Maersk Contonou, a containership, narrowly avoided being boarded by eight armed men while sailing off the coast of Bonny Island, Rivers State. The pirates in a speedboat approached the vessel but were driven off by the vessel’s quick manoeuvring and the Nigerian Navy opening fire. Earlier on the same day, an offshore oil vessel was attacked. A security vessel escorting the convoy intercepted the skiff and came under fire. The security vessel returned fire and the pirates withdrew. Local authorities believe the same pirates were responsible for both incidents.

20 November A spokesman for the Kaduna Police Command confirmed that Ambassador Bagudu Hirse, a former Minister for Foreign Affairs, had been kidnapped. The victim had gone to the house of President Muhammadu Buhari’s nephew, Mamman Daura, in Inuwa Wada Road, Unguwar Rimi GRA, Kaduna, to pay his condolence to the family of the late Sultan of Sokoto. The victim got out of his car and was speaking to other guests by the roadside when three gunmen alighted from a passing Toyota Corolla and forced the victim into their vehicle before speeding away. On 26 November, John Hirse, brother of the victim, announced that the victim had “regained his freedom in the early hours”. He did not give any further details and refused to comment as to whether or not a ransom had been paid. A spokesman for the Kaduna Police Command said the victim was rescued in Kaduna State capital following a massive manhunt by security operatives. He added that no ransom was paid to secure his release.

23 November Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, signed into law the State Kidnapping, Abduction and Forced labour bill which prescribed the death penalty to those found guilty of kidnapping. Shortly after signing the bill, the Governor explained that the law had become necessary in view of the spate of kidnappings in the state. The law provides for the death sentence for kidnappers who kill their victim while those who do not kill their victim, will be jailed for life.

23 November The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Reporting Centre in Kula Lumpur, Malaysia, issued a warning to all ships transiting the Gulf of Guinea/Off Nigeria reporting that pirates armed with automatic weapons in a speed boat fired on a tanker underway. The alarm was raised, SSAS activated, crew alerted and the onboard security team returned fire. The pirates used a ladder to board the tanker and the Master ordered all the crew to the citadel. After two hours, the pirates left the tanker and the crew and vessel were reported safe.

26 November Kidnappers who kidnapped Chief Sunday Festus, an ailing 72 year old retired principal, in Bayelsa State two weeks earlier, strangled him to death after receiving a ransom payment from the victim’s family. A source said that a ransom of N4 million (USD12,700) had been left by the family at an agreed location. The kidnappers ordered the payment delivery team to lie face down on the ground and stole their mobile telephones. They also showed them where the victim’s remains had been deposited. The victim was kidnapped by from his residence in Borno, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, by four armed men on 14 November during the early hours.

27 November The military rescued three men and three women who had been kidnapped on 19 November when gunmen attacked Lere village in Bauchi State at around 11:00pm. The kidnappers contacted the victims’ families and demanded a ransom of N10 million (USD31,750). The rescue operation took place in the Zango-Lere forests in Lere district, Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area, Bauchi State. The kidnappers opened fire on the rescue force as it moved in but later abandoned their victims under pressure from the military’s superior fire power.

27 November The Police Force Public Relations officer told journalists that the police had recorded 300 cases of kidnapping for ransom nationwide over the past four months. According to the police, the crime has been reduced to about 65% over the period although this conflicts with some newspaper investigations that show an increase. The spokesman added that security agents had succeeded in resolving most of the reported cases, arrested a good number of suspects and rescued most of the victims stating the success rate for rescues at 95%.

27 November A 65 year old guard and four poultry workers were kidnapped in the early hours by heavily armed men dressed in military camouflage from their workplace at Kodjo Farms, Epe area, Lagos State. During the morning of 28 November, the kidnappers contacted the son of the guard and demanded a total ransom of N25 million (USD79,400) for the five victims to be released (N5 million (USD15,870) per victim). The kidnappers also kidnapped two men who were travelling along the Igbodu Road.

30 November The Benue State Police Command confirmed that Mrs. Iyuadoo Tor-Agbidye, news editor of Radio Benue, had been released. She was kidnapped four days earlier from her house in Makurdi. The Police Public Relations Officer said that no ransom had been paid and the police had made some arrests. The victim said she was not aware if her husband had paid any ransom to the kidnappers but knew they had demanded a ransom.

30 November Lagos State Police Command paraded three Fulani herdsmen suspects arrested for allegedly kidnapping and murdering Istifanus Bello Gurama, a Senior Strategist with Dangote Industries Limited, who confessed that the victim was killed as the company only paid N5.6 million (USD17,750) of the N10 million (USD31,750) ransom demanded. The victim had been held for three days after they had released four expatriate members of the company who had also been kidnapped. The suspects said they had killed the victim as he refused to call his employer to pay the balance of N4.4 million (USD14,000).

Somalia

4 November The European Union’s counter piracy operation Naval Force Somalia (EU NAVFOR) confirmed that Somali pirates had launched their first attack on a merchant vessel in more than 2 ½ years on 22 October. Six armed pirates in a skiff fired upon the UK-flagged chemical tanker CPO Korea, owned by Offen Tankers, approximately 330 nautical miles off the east coast of Somalia. According to the report of the incident, a number of shots were exchanged between the pirates and the armed security team on board CPO Korea. The pirates eventually broke away after the vessel’s crew successfully implemented self-protection measures by increasing speed, altering course and rigging fire hoses. There were no reported casualties. Major General Rob McGowan, Operation Commander of EU NAVFOR, speaking about the attack said: “This attack shows that pirates still have the intent to attack ships for ransom and cause misery to seafarers and their families. It is imperative that the international community remains vigilant. The EU Naval Force is working with counter-piracy partners to coordinate efforts to ensure pirates do not once again terrorise the waters off the Somali coast”. The attack came soon after a UN report was published in October that described the progress made fighting piracy in the region as “fragile and reversible”.

9 November According to an United Nations report, Somali pirates retain the ability and intent to resume attacks on shipping but have lately shifted to targeting smaller foreign fishing boats. The report added that as at August 2016, there were no crew members of large commercial vessels being held by the pirates but 39 hostages from foreign fishing boats remained in captivity. Reported piracy incidents increased slightly to 15 in the year ending October 2016 compared with 12 incidents over the same period in 2015. These numbers compared favourably with the 237 pirate attacks reported when piracy was at its peak in 2011.

9 November The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution renewing for another year its authorisation for international forces to join in fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia. It stressed that, while the threat of piracy had declined, it still remained a matter of grave concern. According to EU NAVFOR, by January 2011 there were 736 seafarers and 32 vessels being held for ransom by Somali pirates but the number had dropped to zero hostages and zero vessels being held due to naval patrols and the use of armed security teams on board vessels.

South Africa

2 November Naushad Deshmukh Khan (46), owner of Khan’s Punjabis, a clothing store in Athlone, Cape Town, was kidnapped by five armed men, two with rifles and three with handguns, from outside the store as he locked it up for the night. He was with a 51 year old woman at the time. The kidnappers forced the victim into a 4x4, left the woman behind and drove away. His wife and three children, aged 10 to 14 years, were out of the country. Newspaper reports suggested that the victim was previously the target of a failed kidnapping attempt in January 2016. On 4 November, it was reported that the victim had contacted his family and said the kidnappers were demanding a ransom of R335 million (USD23.43 million). Two sources close to the investigation confirmed the “ridiculous figure” although family members denied receiving a call and said people should stop spreading rumours.

Sudan

28 November A West Darfur government spokesman in Darfur region stated that three United Nations Refugee Agency workers, a Sudanese and two Nepalese, were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen from Geneina, the capital of West Darfur State. The spokesman added that the security forces were working to locate the victims and arrest the kidnappers.

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