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Expat Mentor Killed on Anti-Piracy Operation
Third Casualty for Puntland Marine Police Forces
Puntland Marine Police Forces (PMPF)
©Jason Florio
Puntland Marine Police Forces (PMPF)

A South African mentor for the Puntland Marine Police Force (PMPF) was killed today during an anti-piracy operation in Timirshe village in the Bari region of Somalia's semi-autonomous state of Puntland.

As the soldiers were advancing from Iskushuban towards a well know pirate safe haven, the mentor was shot and killed at approximately 15:10 local time although details of the incident remain unknown.

The PMPF, on a mission approved by Puntland President Farole, were attempting to locate and apprehend pirates in the greater Iskushuban District.

The South African national was monitoring a troop of Somali anti-piracy police ordered into Timirishe village in a move against pirates of the ali Salabeen clan. When ordered to proceed with the mission, the troops began firing their guns into the air and into the ground, apparantly in an effort to warn the pirates.

Sources at the scene told Somalia Report that the mentor then approached the group to encourage them forward and was shot and killed. There is still confusion over the exact motive and exactly who the killers were. PMPF sources told Somalia Report that an investigation is underway.

The contractor's name has been released by the Puntland government as Lodewyk Pietersen who was in his fifties. His body has been repatriated for burial.

It is the PMPF's third fatality since it was established over a year ago. Two previous fatalities had been caused by road accidents. A PMPF soldier falling off a vehicle while on the road and another occurred when a water tanker truck crashing, killing the driver on the highway to Garowe.

Operational Hazards

The PMPF had recently planned to establish a forward operating base at the Iskushuban airstrip. A series of meetings were held between the governor and the PMPF to discuss the creation of a permanent base in line with the Puntland governments plan to move into pirate controlled areas. Certain elements began protesting the move which was triggered by recent adoption of a constitution which contained anti piracy requirements and the movement of two large pirate groups in Hul Anod. The deadly shooting is not connected to this tension but there is a unconfirmed report of a PMPF vehicle being stolen and the Major of the town resigning.

The MT Royal Grace was hijacked on March 2nd and has been moving up and down the coast between Hafun and Bargal looking for a safe anchorage. Local police and security forces have been powerless to remove pirates from the small towns but this operation was the first time the PMPF began to work with local police and local forces in blocking and support movements. Previous forays into Qaw and Eyl were in support of local governments or delivery of humanitarian aid.

The pirates had been waiting in armed groups but dispersed when the PMPF began moving into the region. Numerous elements in the local population have been vocal about their displeasure of the arrival of government forces in this lawless area. In areas like Bargal and Hafun, well known pirates and wanted men like Isse Yulux are married to officials families. Isse Yulux is currently aboard the MT Royal Grace.

Pro al-Shabaab propaganda sites like Amiir Nuur claiming that the victim was an American killed in a hotel by assassination are not true. The victim is a citizen of South Africa and was not killed in a hotel.