Somali national booked in Tanzanian court over piracy charges


TANZANIA (eTN0 – A Somali person believed to be among pirates operating in the eastern coast of the Indian Ocean has been charged this week in a Tanzanian court with two counts of conspiracy and piracy.

The 39-year-old Somali, who was identified as Abdi Shungulu, was brought before a resident magistrate’s court in Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam under tight security.

The Somali man was captured last week by Tanzanian military operatives during a foiled attempt to hijack an oil exploration ship in Mtwara area, near the Mozambican border.

Believed to be a highly-trained soldier, the Somali man was interrogated by joint anti-piracy and counter-terrorism security experts in Dar es Salaam before being booked at the civilian court.

Under the Tanzanian laws, piracy and terrorism charges fall under the jurisdiction of the High Court of Tanzania, so the Somali man will be transferred to the High Court for his case to be held after completion of the investigation, because the Resident Magistrate’s Court does not have the mandate to hear piracy cases.

Shungulu allegedly conspired with other people, who are still at large, to attack the oil exploration vessel five miles off the Mtwara coastline in southern Tanzania. The court was told that the same Somali man had committed piracy offenses at Kayan and Handel in Somalia, respectively.

Prosecutors said the Somali man was part of a crew in an unnamed vessel, and they had attempted to attack the oil exploration vessel owned by Ophir Company.

He is alleged to have committed the offense on September 26 of this year, within the Tanzania waters contrary to Section 380(1)and 66(1)(a)(1) of the Penal Code.

This is the first time a piracy case has landed in the Tanzanian courts since the law was reviewed to allow the prosecution of suspects caught in the East African waters.

He was arrested after the group of people tried to hijack the oil exploration ship, which had army personnel on board.

They fired at the ship not knowing that there were solders on it, and the troops returned fire, overpowering the attackers. The pirates sped off after realizing that they were no match to the well-trained army personnel, the Tanzanian army director of information and public relations, Lt. Colonel Kapambala Mgawe, said.

The arraignment of the suspected pirate comes at a time when the Tanzanian army has announced plans to purchase a modern naval ship that will be used to patrol the country’s economic zone within the Indian Ocean.

Presence of Somali pirates on the Indian Ocean has scared away tourist cruise ships and other tourism activities in the eastern coast of Africa.