By Kevin J. Kelley
Pirate gangs in Somalia are believed to be holding five Kenyans for ransom, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report issued on Monday.
The brief reference to the Kenyan captives is included in an 18-page update on Somali piracy presented to the UN Security Council.
Mr Ban does not, however, name the Kenyan hostages, nor does he explain the circumstances of their abduction.
The report notes that a Kenyan is the only Somali pirate hostage to have been freed so far in 2016.
That reference is to James Gachamba Kuria who was seized in November 2014, along with his partner Lois Njoki Weru, while delivering medicine in Somalia.
Mr Kuria was freed as a result of a raid by Somali security forces last February on a village where the two Kenyans were being held. Sadly, Mr Ban’s report states: “The Kenyan woman is still being held hostage.”
Dhows and foreign fishing vessels have become the main targets of Somali pirates in the past year, the report notes.
The Pirates are holding 39 seafarers from foreign-registered vessels as captives, including 26 from an Omani ship, 10 from an Iranian ship and three from a Yemeni vessel.
No seafarers from large commercial ships are currently being held by Somali pirates, says the UN leader’s report which covers the period ending September 30, this year.
“More than three years have passed since Somali pirates successfully hijacked and held a large commercial vessel for ransom,” Mr Ban told the Security Council.
International naval patrols, along with “progress in building a federal state in Somalia,” have contributed to the reduction in large-scale piracy, the report says.
But the threat of attacks on ships in waters off Somalia remains substantial, the report cautions.
It says many local communities in Somalia “view ransom payments for hostages as compensation for what they perceive as fishing revenue lost through illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by such vessels.”
“The drivers that have triggered piracy remain unchanged since 2005,” the report adds.
“The lack of economic opportunity has been identified by [Somalia’s] federal government and international partners as the principal driver of pirate recruitment. It is notable that the criminal networks behind piracy remain undefeated,” it says.