NIGHTWATCH: Somalia Piracy, Niger Famine

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Somalia Anti-Pirate Patrol: A Danish destroyer, HDMS Absalon, sank a pirate mothership in the Indian Ocean off the Somali coast after allowing the crew to leave, a NATO spokes person said Monday. The mothership was fired on and sank after its crew members were transferred to a smaller boat in tow, which was allowed to return to the mainland.

Piracy is off to a slow start this year.  An Australian source reported 17 acts of attempted and successful ship seizures this year through 1 March.  Six ships and 140 seafarers plus a British couple are in pirate custody at this time, awaiting ransom payments.  Ransom demands have increased to $7 million, but it is not clear that payments have gone above $4 million, about the same as last year.

Niger: Update. Today, the junta announced formation of a 20-member provisional government to guide the country to future elections, Reuters reported. Mahamadou Danda will continue as prime minister, and junta chief Major Salou Djibo appointed five military officers to the government, including General Mamadou Ousseini as Defense Minister.

The new military ruler said millions of people are threatened by famine in Niger, Reuters reported. Addressing the nation on state television, Major Djibo said all means were urgently being deployed to tackle the famine, which “threatens the existence of millions of Nigeriens in virtually all regions.”

Easing of famine will be the first test of the sincerity of the new caretakers, who claim to have seized power to take better care of the people, among other justifications.