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Faces of Africa – Afweyne “Big Mouth” and The Somali Pirates

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He was nicknamed Afweyne “Big Mouth” in the Somali language; this is a man who spent close to a decade raining down terror on ships in the busy shipping lanes in and around the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. Mohamed Abdi Hassan is alleged to have hijacked, kidnapped and ransomed with impunity, causing untold suffering to thousands of People, Shipping Companies, Governments and the world at large.

Afweyne “Big Mouth” The Former Somali Pirate Chief

Hassan was a career Civil servant in the defunct Somali Government before the civil war started in 1991. His career in piracy in took off in 2005, and it is rumored that he made millions of dollars from the illegal activities he founded.  Afwyene, Claims he was never involved in piracy, in an exclusive interview with Faces of Africa he said that all he was trying to do was protect the Somali coast lines from International fishing companies that were illegally over fishing in the Somali waters.

Initially, he Afweyne claims they were just, charging the fishing vessels a “fine” for fishing in Somali waters and they would release the vessels instantly. However, this model quickly became a criminal enterprise.

In 2003 Afwayne, recruited across clan lines for the best pirate trainers in Punt land, where piracy begun, and he and his gang started by hijacking World Food program’s ships bringing food aid into Somalia. From there on it was downhill with his band of merry pirates boarding and hijacking ships at will.

A Young Somali Pirate

The Somali coast line became so dangerous that Shipping companies would avoid that route and the international community joined in patrolling the waters near Somalia. Piracy begun to become less lucrative for Afweyne and in 2013 being a shrewd businessman that he is, he called for a press conference announcing  that he was retiring from the piracy business.

Somali Pirates Under Arrest

Security experts doubted Afweyne. “I think the pirates have adapted and changed the module because piracy is coming to an end they will adopt and move to something else,” says Colonel John Steed, a retired Colonel who once headed the United Nations Counter Piracy unit. Big mouth probably retired mainly because Somali piracy turned from being a very lucrative criminal investment model to a really inefficient criminal business model.

In October 2013 Hassan was arrested in Belgium for having allegedly masterminded the 2009 hijacking of the Belgian dredge vessel Pompei. He was also charged with abducting the ship’s crew and belonging to a criminal organization. He was sentenced in March 2016 to twenty years’ imprisonment.

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