Thursday, September 25, 2008

OK, this is freaky and implies all sorts of things.

Apparently, pirates in Somalia have captured an Iranian ship, but now all of those pirates are coming down horribly sick and dying.

The overall story is rather confusing, and I had a hard time with the article, but the basic gist was:

1) The MV Iran Deyanat reached the Gulf of Aden August 20, with an expected arrival in the Suez Canal on August 27th. The trip should only take the ship 4 or 5 days, however. According to the manifest, it was carrying iron ore and "industrial products", bound for the Netherlands.

2) Sometime shortly after entering the Gulf of Aden (definitely before August 23rd), the ship was hijacked by pirates around Puntland in northern Somalia.

3) While negotiations for a $2 million dollar ransom were being worked out, the pirates asked for the local "authorities" (the people who run Puntland) to come investigate the ship. While no one recognizes Puntland, it is a self-governing autonomous area, where law and order are pretty well established on land. This is typical, as the pirates seek some legitimacy by claiming to stop illegal fishing and weapons sales. The pirates claimed to find weapons bound for Eritrea there.

4) Here comes the weird part: On September 4th, when the authorities got there, they found that many of the pirates had weird burns, loss of hair, and other complications. Many of them had already died.

5) On the 6th, an agreement was reached for the $2 million, but never followed through. On the 10th, the US levied sanctions against the Iranian shipping company, and negotiations were broken off. On the 12th, the US offered $7 million for the ship.

6) Currently, there are French and US Naval vessels off the coast, to inspect the ship as soon as it leaves Somali waters. They can do so under the suspicion that it is carrying weapons to Eritrea. The Russians are sending ships down there now as well. It's been suggested that Iranian subs (Iran has subs??) might try to take the ship down before anyone can get to it.

My overall question: What the hell could be causing the medical complications? The article says that chemical weapons are unlikely (but rumored), but what else could it be? Some kind of radiation? There's nothing nuclear or radioactive mentioned in the manifest either. Random outburst of an epidemic of some kind that causes burns??

And where would it have picked up such an odd cargo? If it picked up either radioactive material or chemical weapons in China, and is trying to smuggle them into Iran, why would it be going into the Gulf of Aden/Suez, which has a rather large peninsula between it and Iran. (And any means of smuggling from there to Iran would likely go through Iraq, which would not be a good idea.)

The idea that they were smuggling weapons to Eritrea makes more sense, because Eritrea is on the way. But...chemical weapons?

I'm honestly looking for explanations here. (And, on top of that, the question of the $7 million ransom the US offered, $5 million more than the Iranians agreed to.)

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