Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Anti Piracy Forces Playing Pirates

As Reported HERE

MUKALLA, Yemen: The Russian Navy has been accused of attacking Yemeni fishermen and destroying seven fishing boats in an incident last month, Arab News learned on Wednesday following a sit-in demonstration in the coastal city of Mukalla by Yemeni fishermen. They claim harassment by naval armadas is getting more aggressive.
"They used to mistreat us at sea but would set us free with our possessions," said Awadh Abdullah Bamagad, a 30-year-old Yemeni fisherman. "Now they don't just confiscate fishermen's proprieties, they destroy the boats."
Bamagad and others described one incident that occurred on the morning of April 5 about 112 km from the coastal city of Qusay'ir when a helicopter gunship fired on a number of fishing boats.
"We stopped fishing and decided to head back home because we were so terrified and thought it would come again," said Bamagad.
The helicopter returned and signaled for the fishermen to head west toward a warship. The men described the vessel as bearing the number 543 and flying a white flag with a blue cross -- the Russian Navy's ensign. As they approached the ship, they saw 19 other fishermen held on board under armed surveillance.
The number and flag description indicates that the warship was the Udaloy-class destroyer RFN Marshal Shaposhnikov.
The Russian Federation Navy reported on its website in April that the Marshal Shaposhnikov was "escorting a convoy of 4 vessels through uneasy waters of Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa where pirate assaults are ordinary."
On Wednesday, the BBC reported that the destroyer was still in the area, having been dispatched to assist a Russian oil tanker that had been hijacked by pirates 800 km off the Somali coast.
Standing by the remains of his fishing boat destroyed by the Russians, Bamagad said the crew of the destroyer had robbed them.
"They rifled though our boats, taking our money, IDs, GPS units and even asked us to remove our clothes," said Bamagad.
The men were all placed on one of the vessel and ordered to return to Yemen.
"We waited for a moment hoping that they might bring back our stolen possessions," said Bamagad. "Instead, they fired behind the boat to force us to leave."
The fishermen managed to recover the burnt remains of one of the boats, which have been put on display in the city of Mukalla to bring people's attention to their ordeal. The fishermen claim that they've endured about YER30 million ($140,000) worth of damage from these searches and seizures.
It is not just the Russian Navy. Other Yemeni fishermen have complained about similar incidents involving the Indian Navy. They say the forces deployed to fight piracy in the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden are often as dangerous as the pirates themselves.
Another group of fishermen from Qusay'ir told Arab News that the Indian naval officers physically abused them.
Awadh Al-Haddad, 47, was among a crew of 17 fishermen fishing about 144 km off Ras Fartak recently when a blue Indian Naval helicopter swooped low and asked them to stop. The fishermen said seven armed Indian soldiers approached them in a rubber dinghy dispatched from a warship. Two of the men boarded the fishing vessel while the others kept armed vigilance.
Haddad said the soldiers beat some of the fishermen with scuba flippers and tossed two of them into the water as punishment for questioning their authority.
"They struck 11 of us and left them in the water where there are sharks," said Haddad. "It was a terrible scene. When they saw the Yemeni flag, they said 'Yemen' and refused to talk to us."
After inspecting the boat, they left "as if we were animals," the fisherman said.
Stories of mistreatment by the armadas of big countries are common in the fishing villages along Yemen's coast, home to an estimated 120,000 fishermen whose sole source of income is fishing the waters where armadas and pirates are playing a vast game of cat-and-mouse.
Fed up with what they view as illegal searches and seizures and maltreatment by judgmental, armed naval powers in lawless waters, fishermen are demanding relief.
After a heated discussion with the governor of Yemen's Hadramaut province, the fishermen agreed to suspend their sit-in after the governor promised to bring up the problem in Sana'a. The fishermen have demanded that countries whose navies destroy their boats or equipment should be required to pay restitution.
The Yemeni Fishermen Union issued a strongly worded statement condemning the attacks on the fishermen.
"These cases of the fishermen being mistreated or physically abused have repeatedly happened, involving the Indian forces in particular," said the statement. "The serious turn of sabotaging boats will have a negative impact on the lives of the fishermen."
Abdullah Saeed Sa'adian, the head of Qusay'ir Fishermen Union, said his members are regularly harassed and even fired upon by naval forces. But now the fishermen say the destruction of vessels is a new phenomenon, indicating that the situation is getting worse.
"The serious turn in their misbehavior — of blowing up boats — is intolerable," said Sa'adian. "The (navy) ships have become a source of terror in the sea."
Yemen has expressed resentment over the frequent attacks on the fishermen.
Foreign Minister Abu Baker Al-Qiribi said that Yemen is demanding compensation from responsible parties, calling for a quick resolution to incidents that occur where fishermen are treated like criminals. Al-Qiribi said Yemen has debriefed ambassadors from the US, Russia, Japan, India, China and EU countries about the problem.

No comments:

Post a Comment