Pirate kingpin Mohamed Abdi Hassan, better known as Afweyne or Big Mouth, who was arrested as part of an elaborate undercover operation in Belgium in Saturday, was also the mastermind behind the hijacking of Danish coaster Danica White and the five Danish seafarers onboard that ship, says Director of international security firm Risk Intelligence, Hans Tino Hansen.
"As founder and head of the group Somali Marines, a group that focuses purely on piracy, Afweyne is responsible for a long line of hijackings. From a Danish perspective, the hijacking of Danica White is the most interesting case," he tells Ritzau.
Last year, a UN report described Mohamed Abdi Hassan as "one of the most infamous and influential" pirate kingpins in Somalia.
First arrested leader, more to come
According to a spokesman for the Head of the European External Action Service, Catherina Ashton, the arrest marks an important step in the fight against piracy.
"While we have full respect for the principle of assumed innocence, we believe this arrest marks an important step in the fight against the pirates. It shows that authorities are now able to not just track the pirates, but also the alleged leaders of these ciminal networks," he tells Financial Times.
A Kenyen expert in maritime robberies at the Horn of Africa, Andrew Mwangura, confirmed to Ritzau in 2007 that Somali Marines was "most likely" the group behind the hijacking of Danica White, and other sources have since reached similar conclusions.
Danica White and its five Danish crew members were were hijacked on June 1st 2007 off the coast of Somalia. At first the pirates demanded USD 1.5 million, but the random was subsequently negotiated down to USD 723,000.
The coaster was released on August 20th 2007 and sailed to Djibouti, where Danish police technicians boarded the ship and secured both fingerprints and dna samples, so as to be able to apprehend the pirates later in case they turned up in Europe.
Son is also an active pirate
Afweyne's eldest son, Abdulkadir Mohamed Afweyne, is also active in piracy.
According to Director Hans Tino Hansen, Risk Intelligence, he was part of the investor group that kidnapped the six seafarers from Danish coaster Leopard, from carrier Shipcraft, on January 12, 2011.
The seafarers, including the two Danes Søren Lyngbjørn and Eddy Lopéz, where held captive for two years, three months, and 18 days before being released on April 30th this year, for a random of around USD 6.9 million.
The prospects of seeing his life portrayed in a documentary film lured the infamous pirate from Somalia to Brussels, where he was arrested together with his powerful co-conspirator, Mohamed Aden "Tiiceey."