UK & World News
Somali Pirate Seized In Belgium Film Sting
A notorious Somali pirate chief has been arrested in Belgium after being lured there on promises of filming a documentary about his life on the high seas.
Federal prosecutor Johan Delmulle said Mohamed Abdi Hassan, better known as 'Afweyne' or 'Big Mouth', is being held in the Belgian city of Bruges after being detained at Brussels airport on Saturday when he stepped off a flight from Nairobi.
Afweyne and his powerful accomplice, Mohamed Aden "Tiiceey", the former governor of Somalia's self-proclaimed Himan and Heeb statelet, are facing charges of kidnapping, piracy and organised crime, the prosecutor said in a statement.
The charges followed the 2009 capture of a Belgian ship, the Pompei, seized and held by pirates off the Somali coast for more than 70 days until a ransom was paid.
An inquiry led to the arrest and conviction of two of the pirates but the Belgian prosecutor's office had not let up its determination to bring to book the people "behind this act of piracy, who ordered, financed and organised logistical backup", Mr Delmulle said.
As the pirate was a resident of Somalia and rarely travelled, police "elaborated an infiltration operation aimed at arresting Afweyne outside of Somalia". the prosecutor said.
"Via Tiiceey, Afweyne was asked to collaborate as an adviser and expert on a film project on maritime piracy. The film was supposed to reflect his life as a pirate."
But when Afweyne and Tiiceey landed on Saturday morning to sign the movie contract, "they were awaited and taken into custody", the prosecutor said.
Described last year by the UN as "one of the most notorious and influential leaders" in Somalia's pirate hub, Afweyne notably was involved in the 2008 capture of the Saudi-owned Sirius Star oil supertanker, released for a ransom of several million dollars.
He also reportedly took part in the 2008 capture of the MV Faina, a Ukrainian transport ship carrying 33 refurbished Soviet-era battle tanks, which was released after a 134-day hijack.
Afweyne announced in Mogadishu in January that he was leaving piracy after a highly profitable eight-year career. He said he was working to persuade other pirates to do the same.