Somali Pirates Hijack Ship Carrying 33 Russian Tanks

The ship was also carrying large quantities of weapons and ammunition:

MOSCOW — A Russian warship on Friday rushed to intercept a Ukrainian vessel carrying 33 battle tanks and ammunition that was seized by pirates off the Horn of Africa — a bold hijacking that heightened fears about the surging piracy and high-seas terrorism.

U.S. naval ships were in the area and “monitoring the situation,” and a U.S. Defense Department official said Washington was concerned about the attack.

“I think we’re looking at the full range of options here,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

It was unclear whether the pirates who seized the Faina Thursday knew ahead of time it was carrying 33 Russian-designed T-72 tanks, plus ammunition and spare parts, bound for Kenya. Analysts said it would be extremely difficult to sell such weaponry as Russian tanks.

Kenyan maritime welfare activist Andrew Mwangura told The Associated Press that the hijacking of such cargo was unprecedented.

“This is a jackpot in the piracy world,” he told AP.

The hijacking, with worldwide pirate attacks surging this year, could help rally stronger international support behind France, which has pushed aggressively for decisive action against Somali pirates.

Russian navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo told the AP that the missile frigate Neustrashimy left the Baltic Sea port of Baltiisk a day before the hijacking to cooperate with other unspecified countries in anti-piracy efforts.

But he said the ship was then ordered directly to the Somalia coast after Thursday’s attack.

A lot of armchair warriors are saying the pirates will have no use for the tanks and will be unable to sell them. Not true, a rich warlord can hire mechanics to keep the T-72 up and running because it’s a design from the 70s and easy to learn to maintain compared to modern tank design. There’s a maximum height requirement so finding drivers will be harder than mechanics. But in Africa child soldiers are easy to come by.

An ambitious warlord may have just scored himself the ability to topple weak governments and fend of a weak willed west. The question is how much force the Russians will commit to Somalia if things go bad, and how long the Somali pirates can hold out.