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NATO Navy Captures Armament-Filled Ship, Bound For Eritrea

A small ship, originating from North Korea and carrying rockets and other armaments destined for Eritrea, was intercepted in the international waters of the Indian Ocean by international navy enforcing sanctions against Eritrea.

There are 15 tons of rockets, surface to air missiles and explosives worth USD $15 million on the ship which had sailed to Singapore to evade North Korean Port of Origin designation.

The Southern Red Sea and the Indian Ocean have been increasingly monitored by multi-national naval forces from the United States, France, Germany and a contingent on behalf of NATO specially since December 2009 when the UN Security Council passed resolution 1907 to impose sanctions on Eritrea for its ruling regime’s destructive role in Somalia and refusal to acknowledge and address its border conflict with Djibouti.   The sanction stipulates an arms embargo on Eritrea, as well as travel restrictions and asset freeze on the regime’s political and miliary leadership.

The European naval forces have also increased their presence since Somali pirates gained notoriety in 2005 by hijacking ships and demanding ransom.

The ship is now docked in one of the region’s ports.

Background

The scope of the Eritrean regime’s role in arming extremist Somali groups was highlighted in late July 2006 when Somali government officials reported that two Ilyushin-76 cargo planes bearing the emblem of Kazakhstan landed in Mogadishu from Eritrea with “loads of weapons of unknown origin.”  This, and similar claims detailed in the November 2006 “Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia” (http://www.fas.org/asmp/resources/govern/109th/S2006913.pdf), resulted in the United Nations expanding the mission of the Somalia Monitoring Group.   In March 2010, the Group (now renamed the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group) reported that ”the Government of Eritrea has continued to provide political, diplomatic, financial and–allegedly–military assistance to armed opposition groups in Somalia during the course of the mandate, in violation of resolution 1844 (2008).”  The report accused Eritrea of funding “Al Shabab, Ras Kamboni forces and Hizbel Islam.” The Eritrean regime funded the insurgents at the rate of $40,000-$60,0000 a month, according to the report, and had training facilities in Asab and the Tessenei area for them.  The UN extended the Group’s mandate for another year.

According to our sources, the network of arms smugglers and financiers included the Mubarek regime, the Qaddafi regime and, according the government of Somalia, the Iranian regime.  The Eritrean regime operates a sophistical smuggling racket: corrupt Eritrean military officials solicit funds from Diaspora Eritreans to smuggle out young Eritreans on indefinite conscription to Sudan; from Sudan, corrupt government officials in co-operation with their Eritrean counterparts extract more money from the Eritrean youth to move them to Egypt; in Egypt’s Sinai, “Bedouin” tribes extract more money–and to persuade the family members of the Eritrean “human cargo” to send money on behalf of the hostages, torture, rape and sometimes kill them.   The Eritrean regime, which operates like a mafia enterprise, gets a cut off all transactions.  Then, to add insult to injury, it arrests the parents of the youth who left the country “illegally” and demands they pay 50,000 Nakfa (about 2,500 USD) per individual.

Sometimes the human cargo follows the same trail as the arms transfer caravan and the former is mistaken for the latter.   In January and February 2009, hundreds of Eritreans en route from Sudan to Egypt, died when their trucks were subject to aerial bombardment.  No one claimed responsibility, but Sudan was quick to accuse Israel.  When the international community, including the Vatican, was appealing to Egypt to safeguard the the safety of the refugees, the Eritrean regime’s ambassador to Egypt told Almasry Alyoum that  “any fugitive who escapes to any other country and crosses the borders of another state does not have any rights, as provided for in international law.”


Excerpt from The Monitoring Group on Somalia (November 2006)

Eritrea
15.    During the current mandate period, the Government of Eritrea provided at least 28 separate consignments of arms, ammunition and military equipment. It also provided troops and training to ICU in Somalia, as described below.
Eritrean support for the Islamic Courts Union
16.    On 26 April 2006, a shipment of arms consisting of AK-47 assault rifles, PKM machine guns, RPG-7s and a variety of ammunition arrived on a dhow at the seaport of El Ma’an. The arms were from the Government of Eritrea and were destined for ICU.
17.    On 6 May 2006, at about 0500 hours, an Eritrean Antonov military aircraft landed at Dhusamareeb, Galgaduud region, Somalia. Awaiting the landing of the aircraft were about 75 people, five lorries and two land cruisers. The vehicles’ headlamps had been turned on to facilitate the landing. The aircraft transported a shipment of anti-aircraft guns, which were offloaded from the aircraft and loaded onto the lorries. The lorries, accompanied by the land cruisers, travelled by road to a natural seaport near Hobyo on the Somali coast.
18.    On 9 May 2006, a dhow arrived at El Ahmed seaport, located south of Marka, Lower Shabelle region. On board the dhow were fighters from Pakistan and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The fighters remained on the dhow. Five out of the 75 people associated with the receipt of the anti-aircraft guns on 6 May boarded the dhow, along with part of the shipment of anti-aircraft guns. The dhow then departed the port of El Ahmed, travelling south along the coast for Raskiambooni, in southern Somalia. The Monitoring Group has previously reported that the Raskiambooni area serves as a training and support centre for militant fundamentalists. In charge of the Raskiambooni centre is Sheikh Hassan Abdulle Hersi “Sheikh Hassan Turki”, a known militant and leader of the Munathamul Jihad wa Dawa (Organization for Jihad and Propagation).
19.    During a period of about one week starting on 15 June 2006, four Eritrean military aircraft landed at Dhusamareeb, Galgaduud region. Cargo on board the aircraft included various types of arms, including AK-47 assault rifles, PKM machine guns, RPGs, a variety of ammunition and military uniforms.
20. ICU member Aden Hashi Farah “Eyrow”, one of the leaders of the Hizbul Shabaab (Youth Movement), took possession of the arms and military uniforms. The shipment was loaded onto lorries and transported under the protection of 12 technicals to Mogadishu. In Mogadishu, the shipment was separated into four consignments and variously distributed to militant forces in Mogadishu, Marka, Barawe and Kongo (a former TFG military training camp near Jowhar), where the Eritreans intend to set up a military base in support of ICU.
21. On 19 June 2006 a dhow arrived at El Ade seaport (Mogadishu area) containing 24 M72-series lightweight anti-armour weapons (LAWs), 1,200 anti-tank mines, 4,000 F1 hand grenades, an unspecified number of boxes of ammunition for small arms, 2,000 uniforms, 1,500 military-style individual water bottles and medicines. The arms and other items were transported from the port of Assab, Eritrea.
22.    On 30 June 2006 a vessel using the name Selam travelled from the Eritrean seaport of Massawa to Somalia carrying food and arms, as follows: 2,000 tons of food, about 50 DShK, 50 82 mm mortars, 3,000 AK-47s and 1,000 boxes of ammunition.
23. On 4 July 2006 four flights of Eritrean military aircraft landed at Esaley airport, located in the north-eastern part of Mogadishu. Two of the flights contained arms for ICU, and the other two were transporting approximately 500 military personnel consisting of Eritrean military and fighters from the Ethiopian insurgent groups Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and OLF.
24. Subsequent to their arrival at Esaley, all of the military personnel were transported to El Ma’an seaport. At El Ma’an, militant fundamentalist businessman and financier Abukar Omar Adani made arrangements for the troops to be transported by dhow to the vicinity of Marka, Lower Shabelle. The threefold purpose of the troop deployment to Lower Shabelle is to create an alternative headquarters in addition to Mogadishu and to establish both a new military base and a training camp for foreigners — both military trainers and fighters. The new facility is located near both the seaport and the airport of El Ahmed.
25.    On 15 July 2006 Colonel Yusuf Negash Warque, an Eritrean military officer, arrived in Mogadishu on a chartered aircraft. The Colonel, who speaks Somali, conducted a meeting with leaders of the Supreme Council of Islamic Courts, including from the Executive Committee and the Majlis Al Shura (Consultative Committee). The following day, 16 July, Colonel Warque departed Mogadishu in a Toyota pickup truck and, escorted by four technicals, travelled to Mareer-Gur for a meeting with Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.
26.    On 17 July 2006 a vessel using the name MV Yohana travelled from Eritrea to Somalia carrying food and arms, as follows: 3,000 tons of food, 50 DShK, 30 82 mm mortars, 2,000 AK-47s and 100 RPG-7s. It should be additionally noted that in a report of the United Nations Panel of Experts on Somalia, a vessel using the name MV Yohana was also identified as being associated with the Government of Eritrea’s involvement in Somalia arms embargo violations, which, among other things, included delivering arms and transporting troops of OLF (see S/2003/223, paras. 71-73).
27.    On 20 July 2006 an Airbus A310-300, operated by Daallo Airlines, departed from Assab, Eritrea, destined for Somalia. On board the aircraft were a variety of arms, as follows: B-10 anti-tank guns; heavy (large-calibre) machine guns; PKM machine guns, with magazines and telescopic sighting devices; AK-47 assault rifles; G3A3 assault rifles; Browning .30-calibre machine guns; 120 mm mortars; and rifle- fired grenades. On or about 21 July 2006 a second arms shipment, consisting primarily of a variety of ammunition, arrived in Somalia on board an Airbus A310-300, also operated by Daallo Airlines.
28. The Daallo Airlines flights picked up the arms shipments in the Eritrean seaport city of Assab, where the shipments had originally been delivered by dhow. Monitoring Group sources clearly indicate that Eritrea is being used as both a conduit and a platform for, as well as a coordinator of, support for the Somali ICU. States using Eritrea for this purpose include Djibouti, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Egypt and certain Middle East countries.
29.    The Monitoring Group sent letters on 18 August 2006 to Daallo Airlines and the Government of Eritrea notifying them of the above information and seeking their responses. Both parties replied on 22 August 2006, and both denied participation in the events described above (see annexes IV and V).
30. On 23 July 2006, late in the afternoon, a commercial aircraft arrived at Dhusamareeb, Galgaduud region, with a shipment of arms for ICU. The shipment consisted of the following: shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles and second- generation infrared-guided anti-tank weapons — 50 units; RPGs — 100 units; AK-47 assault rifles — 540 units; FAL assault rifles — 94 units; PKM machine guns — 106 units; ZU-23 and DShK anti-aircraft ammunition — unknown number of units; and foodstuffs, water supplies and medicines. The aircraft that delivered the arms had reportedly departed from the United Arab Emirates empty and then flown to Eritrea, where it picked up the arms.
31.    The arms were loaded onto five trucks and, under escort by seven technicals, were transported to Mareer-Gur, Galgaduud region, which was then the local headquarters of the militants. At a later date, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys relocated the headquarters to Bula’ley, approximately 40 kilometres south-east of Dhusamareeb.
32.    On 24 July 2006 an aircraft containing an arms shipment and senior Eritrean military officers arrived at Mogadishu’s Esaley airport. The arms consisted of unknown numbers of rockets and other anti-tank weapons.
33.    On 26 July 2006 a meeting took place between officials of ICU and visiting Libyan, Egyptian and Eritrean senior military officers at the house of the ICU Finance Chief, Abdulkadir Abukar Omar Adani. The meeting resulted in the following decisions: military training would be provided to about 3,800 fighters at the Hilweyne military barracks, located near Bal’ad town, north of Mogadishu; Egypt and Eritrea would provide instructors; facility upgrades, training costs and incentives were to be paid for by the Libyan Government; and Libyan, Eritrean and Egyptian military officers, with support from Sheik Yusuf Indohaadde, Adan Hashi “Eyrow”, Abdullahi Ali Nuur and Mukhtar Roboow “Abu Mansuur”, were to evaluate the condition and needs of the proposed training site the day following the meeting.
34.    On 23 August 2006 the Islamic military forces opened the military training camp at Hilweyne and welcomed the first contingent of about 600 recruits, who are expected to undergo a period of intensive military and ideological training. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys indicated in comments concerning the new recruits that they would be trained, among other purposes, to participate in the defence of Somalia from both internal and external — foreign — aggression.
35. On 26 July 2006 a dhow originating from Saudi Arabia and carrying food items stopped in Eritrea and picked up a shipment of arms. The dhow then continued to Somalia. On board the dhow was a retired senior military officer of the Egyptian army who is also a member of the Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimun (Muslim Brotherhood), using the name Ahmed Abu-Masri. The Egyptian posed as the dhow pilot. Also on board was a Somali businessman, using the name Omar Isaaq, who had coordinated the acquisition of the food items and arms. The dhow arrived in Somalia at Raage Eele, approximately 40 kilometres north of El-Ma’an. The consignments of food and arms were loaded onto waiting trucks and covered to conceal their true nature. The convoy containing the consignments and the Egyptian travelled to the stronghold of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys in the Galgaduud region.
36. The dhow had a load capacity of 88 metric tons and bore the markings XL8.5×10 on its hull. The arms shipment consisted of 3,600 anti-tank mines and 500 hand grenades. On 18 August 2006 the Monitoring Group sent a letter to the Government of Saudi Arabia notifying it of the above information and seeking its response. The Monitoring Group had not received a reply by the time of the submission of the present report.
37. On 26 August 2006 three dhows transporting 2,000 fully equipped combat troops from Eritrea arrived at Warsheikh, located north of Mogadishu, along the coast. On arrival at Warsheikh, the troops were relocated to an area in north Mogadishu for ultimate redeployment to different ICU-held areas. They were redeployed as follows: 500 of the Eritrean troops went to Baledogle, 500 to Hilweyne training camp and 500 to Lower Shabelle, and 500 remained in Mogadishu and were stationed at Villa Baidoa and the former Police Academy, Bolisiya.
38. At the end of August 2006, at about 0645 hours, a large military transport aircraft arrived at Mogadishu International Airport with a shipment of arms from Eritrea. The shipment consisted of one or more of the following: M-46 130 mm towed field gun, D-30 122 towed howitzer, M-30122 mm towed howitzer, D-30 152 mm, Zu 57-2-57 mm, Zu-23-2, Shilka-4-23 mm, Zu-23-4, different calibres of mortars, SA-6 “Gainful” low-to-medium altitude surface-to-air missile, PZRK Strela 2M surface-to-air missile (also known as SA-7 “Grail”) and RPG-7.
Eritrean support for the Ogaden National Liberation Front via the Islamic Courts Union
39.    On 8 July 2006 a shipment of arms transported by camels and donkeys, and under the escort of 70 members of ICU along with 160 ONLF fighters, entered Ethiopia through the Abudwaq district, Galgaduud region, Somalia. The shipment consisted of the following: explosives — 6 boxes; shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons — 6 units; PKM machine guns — 22 units; AK-47 assault rifles — 120 units; FAL assault rifles — 40 units; and hand grenades — 6 boxes.
Training of Islamic Courts Union militia members in Eritrea
40.    On 27 July 2006 upwards of 500 fighters from the military forces of ICU were flown from Esaley airport, Mogadishu, to Eritrea. They were sent for training in the use of the new types of rockets and surface-to-air missiles shipped by Eritrea to ICU. Of the approximately 500 fighters, 200 were also to receive training in Eritrea in guerrilla warfare. The others were sent to the Libya Arab Jamahiriya (100) and the Syrian Arab Republic (200) (see also the sections on the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and the Syrian Arab Republic below).
41.    On 8 August 2006 300 fighters of ICU were also flown from Baledogle airport (north-west of Mogadishu), Lower Shabelle region, to Eritrea for the purpose of attending military training in the use of rockets and surface-to-air missiles that Eritrea had recently delivered to ICU. Earlier the same day the aircraft that transported the fighters had also offloaded shipments of AK-47 assault rifles and PKM machine-gun ammunition at Baledogle airport.
42.    The Monitoring Group sent a letter on 18 September 2006 to the Government of Eritrea notifying it of all of the above information and seeking its response. The Monitoring Group had not received a reply by the time of the submission of the present report.
The case of Eriko Enterprise, Asmara
43.    On 26 July 2006, at 0745 hours an Ilyushin 76 (IL-76) aircraft containing an arms shipment for ICU arrived at Mogadishu International Airport. Also on board the aircraft were 10 senior Eritrean military officers. The Eritrean officers were lodged in the Ramadaan Hotel, owned by Abukar Omar Adani, who is a financier of ICU.
44.    The IL-76 departed from Assab, Eritrea, indicating a flight plan designating a destination of Hargeisa (Somaliland), but the aircraft went to Mogadishu. The IL-76, using the call sign LFT-1221, has the flag of Kazakhstan painted on the tail, and the registration number on the fuselage of the aircraft starts with the prefix UN, which is the code for Kazakhstan.
45.    Before landing, all roads in proximity to the airport were closed and vehicle traffic was redirected elsewhere. The security of the area and the offloading of the arms shipment were coordinated by the leader of the Hizbul Shabaab, Sheikh Mukhtar Roboow “Abu-Mansuur”. The arms were offloaded onto seven trucks that were covered to conceal the nature of the cargo. Another truck, carrying barrels of fuel, was left uncovered. The arms shipment consisted of a wide variety of weapons, spare parts and ammunition, including assault rifles, hand grenades, mines, PKM machine guns, LAWs, surface-to-air missiles, multiple rocket launchers, anti-aircraft guns of different calibres, anti-tank guns and heavy machine guns. Also on board the aircraft were military uniforms, machine-gun belts (feeder belts) and medicines.
46.    On 28 July 2006 two IL-76 cargo aircraft landed — the first of them at 0700 hours — at Mogadishu International Airport. Both aircraft contained arms shipments for ICU. Again, before the aircraft landed, all roads in proximity to the airport were closed to vehicle traffic. The arms shipments consisted of anti-tank weapons; ZP-39 anti-aircraft guns with seats; 80 extra barrels and boxes of ammunition for the ZP-39; DShK heavy machine guns and boxes of ammunition; PKM and boxes of ammunition; AK-47s and boxes of ammunition; grenade launchers for the AK-47; mines; FAL assault rifles and boxes of ammunition; grenade launchers for the FAL assault rifle; SAR-80 assault rifles; anti-personnel mines; B-10 anti-tank guns and boxes of ammunition; and 60 mm mortars and boxes of ammunition.
47. The arms were offloaded onto lorries and, escorted by a security detail consisting of 25 technicals, transported and distributed to three arms-storage facilities in Mogadishu: Villa Baidoa, Villa Somalia and the former Police Academy, Bolisiya (between the international airport and the main seaport). The majority of the arms were divided between Villa Somalia and the former Police Academy.
48.    Subsequently, arms from the three shipments of 26 and 28 July were further distributed to militias belonging to ICU in Mogadishu, Jowhar, Buur Hakaba (located along the road between Mogadishu and Baidoa) and Guriel (Dhusamareeb area).
49.    On 7 August 2006 an Ilyushin 76 aircraft operated by Eriko Enterprises, using flight call sign LFT-3756, departed Assab, Eritrea, for Mogadishu International Airport.
50.    The Monitoring Group sent letters to the Government of Eritrea on 9 August 2006 and 1 September 2006 and to the Government of Kazakhstan on 15 August 2006 requesting their responses concerning four IL-76 flights reported to have variously taken place on 26 and 28 July and 7 August 2006. The Monitoring Group also sent letters on 19 September 2006 to Aerolift Company, based in South Africa, and to the Government of South Africa requesting their responses in regard to the above information. As of the time of the submission of the present report, the Monitoring Group had not received a reply from the Government of South Africa.
51. The Government of Eritrea did not reply to the letter of 9 August 2006. It replied to the letter of 1 September 2006 in a letter dated 6 September 2006 (annex VI) informing the Monitoring Group as follows: “The Government of the State of Eritrea does not have any information on the arrival or departure of the stated aircraft. The Government of the State of Eritrea is gravely concerned about the continued spread of misinformation on Eritrea’s alleged violations of Security Council resolution 733 (1992).” In the same letter, the Government of Eritrea also stated that the Monitoring Group’s information “is totally wrong and lacks credibility”.
52. However, subsequently, the Monitoring Group received the following information: (a) the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Air Traffic Control Authority of a neighbouring country confirmed the flights; (b) on 19 September 2006 the Government of Kazakhstan provided information on the IL-76 in question indicating that the aircraft belonged to Aerolift (annex VII), and (c) on 29 September 2006 Aerolift provided information that indicated that the same IL-76 had been sold to Eriko Enterprise, an Eritrean company, before the flights to Mogadishu took place (annex VIII). Accordingly, the Chairman of the Monitoring Group made several attempts to establish contact with Eriko during the first two weeks of October 2006. Eriko could not be reached for comment.
53. Seeking additional information and clarification, the Chairman of the Monitoring Group placed a follow-up telephone call on 3 October 2006 to the same Aerolift representative who had provided the assistance noted above and asked for additional information. The representative told the Chairman that he would provide documentation showing that the aircraft in question was operated by Eriko. However, as of the time of the submission of the present report, the Monitoring Group had not received the promised documentation.
The case of the B-707 of Euro Oceanic Air Transport Ltd
54.    The Monitoring Group received information that on 8 and 10 October 2006 a B-707 aircraft — the same aircraft on both days — flew from Massawa, Eritrea, to Mogadishu International Airport. The aircraft bore a Ugandan registration number, 5X-EOT, and used the call sign MHU of Sky Jet Aviation (U) Ltd, formerly Air Memphis. Cargo transported on the 8 October flight consisted of generators, medicines, 2,500 single-person tents and 30 larger tents, 400 pieces of telecommunication equipment for vehicles, 1,500 communication handsets and 10 sealed containers. The intended recipients of the cargo were the ICU military forces based in Raskiambooni, Guriel, Mogadishu and Kismaayo. Cargo transported on the 10 October flight included an unknown quantity of arms and representatives of an ICU military force, following the completion of military training, who were being returned to Somalia from a State that has been providing support to ICU.
55.    Sky Jet Aviation (U) Ltd is based in Kampala. The Chairman of the Monitoring Group placed a telephone call to the Chairman of that company, who furnished the following information: the B-707 referred to above was smuggled out of Egypt on 5 July 2006 and was at the time of its flights from Massawa, Eritrea, to Mogadishu, on 8 and 10 October, operated by Euro Oceanic Air Transport, a company based in Bahrain. That company used a registration number, air operator certificate and call sign without authorization from Sky Jet Aviation (U) Ltd. The Chairman of Sky Jet Aviation (U) Ltd further informed the Monitoring Group that it had sent letters to the authorities of Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates after learning that the aircraft was transporting arms shipments from Eritrea to Somalia (annex IX).

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