SEAMAN: An armed Somali pirate
AFTER HAVING spent eight seasons raiding vessels off the east African coast, the Somali pirate commander known as “Big Mouth” has decided to call time on his plundering days.
Mohamed Abdi Hassan, who was labelled “one of the most notorious and influential leaders of the Hobyo-Harardhere Piracy Network” in a 2012 UN monitoring group document, is to understood to have voluntarily turned his back on a life of crime, according to a Somali town chief.
Nicknamed in his native tongue as “Afweyneh” – which directly translates as Big Mouth – Hassan, last Thursday (January 10), told reporters of his decision in the central Somali town of Adado, a location where pirate captives have previously been kept.
Last year saw a significant drop in successful pirate raids on international shipping. One explanation for this, according to analysts, is due to better-concerted efforts between different countries’ naval patrols, and the greater use of private security firms onboard vulnerable ships.
Adado’s administration leader, Mohamed Adan, told BBC Somali service that Big Mouth was not the only influential pirate to renounce the trade and disarm.
“We persuaded them to disarm and hand over whatever they have - boats and weapons,” he said.
REFORMED: Big Mouth has quit being a pirate
“They realised that they cannot function as before with impunity and profits are no longer good,” the town chief added.
AFP news agency quoted Afweyneh from last Wednesday’s news conference in Adado as saying: “After being in piracy for eight years, I have decided to renounce and quit, and from today on I will not be involved in this gang activity.
“I have also been encouraging many of my colleagues to renounce piracy too, and they have done it,” Big Mouth said.
Reportedly the pirate was incentivised to quit, with a former Somali president giving him diplomatic status and a diplomatic passport.
AFP reports point out that in 2009, Big Mouth’s pirating crews were involved in seizing Ukrainian vessel MV Faina – among its cargo were Russian-made tanks and weapons. The ship was released after months of negotiations and a $3.2m (£2m) ransom was paid.
The news agency also attributes Big Mouth’s men playing a part in capturing the Saudi-owned supertanker Sirius Star in 2008. The tanker, carrying two million barrels of oil was freed after two months of negotiations – a helicopter dropped what was believed to be a $3m ransom on its deck.
British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler spent more than a year in Adado when in 2009 pirates took them hostage from their yacht while they were holidaying off the coast of the Seychelles.