NAIROBI, Kenya – Security forces in a semiautonomous region in northern Somalia have arrested 12 pirates, including a prominent gang member whose assets were frozen by the U.S. Treasury Department last month, an official said Thursday.
The gang was arrested Tuesday in an operation aimed at cracking down on pirates operating in the relatively calm northeastern region of Puntland, where politicians are accused of helping seajackers and taking a cut of the ransoms, said Abdi Hirsi Qarjab, the governor of Nugal region. The pirate den of Eyl is in Nugal.
Abshir Abdillahi, who is also known as Abshir Boyah, was captured as he tried to flee the town of Garowe, Qarjab said. He said $29,500 in cash and two pistols were recovered from his car. Three other cars belonging to the brigands were also seized.
Boyah was one of the founders of the piracy trade in the region and continued to invest in it despite recent claims that he had sworn off piracy, Qarjab said
Qarjab said authorities had no plan to hand him over to the U.S., noting that the men would be taken to court soon.
"The court will decide their fate," he said.
The U.S. Treasury Department last month froze the assets of nearly a dozen suspected Islamist militants in Somalia, including the 44-year-old Abdillahi.
"Boyah is a well-known pirate. He is a threat to our security and that is why we captured him together with others," Qarjab said. Boyah was transferred to a prison in the town of Bossaso, where nearly 400 pirates are being held.
The region's president, Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, promised last year to end piracy in the area, and authorities have since arrested dozens of pirates.
President Barack Obama gave Treasury officials broader power last month to deal with a deteriorating security situation in Somalia by allowing them to sanction or freeze the assets of individuals involved in piracy off Somalia's coast or militants who have done anything to threaten the shaky nation's stability.
The executive order targets anyone who threatens the peace, interferes with the delivery of humanitarian assistance or violates the United Nations arms embargo in the lawless nation.
Puntland, which declared itself an autonomous state within Somalia in 1998, has generally been spared the violence that has wracked much of the country's southern and central regions. But pirates use the region as a base of operations.
The Horn of Africa nation has been mired in anarchy since 1991, allowing piracy to flourish off its shores.