\’We\’re not afraid to fire on pirates\’

The commander of a Dutch naval ship escorting humanitarian aid to Somalia has a five-step plan to keep pirates away – and he\’s not afraid to open fire if that will keep his cargo safe.


Cmdr. Peter Reesnik of the Ruyter warship has a mission to protect 7,000 tons of food heading to Somalia. Rampant piracy and attacks upon aid workers have left the impoverished Horn of Africa nation in dire need of humanitarian aid.

“If I have to, I\’ll destroy the (pirates\’) ship,” Reesnik told The Associated Press, speaking board his four-deck ship as it ploughed through the Indian Ocean and Dutch troops test-fired machine guns into sea.

“We will try to scare them away, we will try to call them on different radio circuits, if that doesn\’t help we will shoot some flares,” Reesnik explained.

“If that doesn\’t help we will try a shot over the bow first, and if that doesn\’t work, then we will start to aim and fire directly,” he declared.

The warship is escorting the Ibn Batouta, which is carrying the food aid to Somalia\’s capital, Mogadishu.

Kim Fredriksson, a senior shipping officer at U.N.\’s World Food Program, said the agency has delivered 50,000 tons of food aid to Somalia by ship in the last month. He estimated it took about 10 ships to deliver the food.

The Ruyter and the WFP vessel both set off from the Kenyan port of Mombasa, but the Dutch warship will anchor out at sea off the Somali coast as smaller skiffs escort the food to Mogadishu.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a dictatorship and then turned on one another. The lawlessness has allowed piracy to flourish off the coast, with bandits in speed boats launching attacks on foreign shipping, bringing in about $30 million in ransoms this year alone.

The country is also battling a ferocious Islamic insurgency. Civilians have taken the brunt of the violence surrounding the insurgency, with thousands killed or maimed by mortar shells, machine-gun crossfire and grenades.

The United Nations says there are around 300,000 acutely malnourished children in Somalia, but attacks and kidnappings of aid workers have shut down many humanitarian projects.

The United States fears that Somalia could be a terrorist breeding ground, and accuses an Islamic faction known as al-Shabab of harbouring the al-Qaida-linked terrorists who allegedly blew up the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.