About 40 pirates, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault
rifles, boarded the Iranian ship, owned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards
Corps, in the Horn of Africa, about 130 kilometers southeast of Yemen. Iran
Deyanat was registered to carry a sealed cargo of 42,500 tons minerals and
industrial products to the Netherlands via Egypt's Suez Canal.
"That ship is unusual," Somali Regional Energy Minister Hassan Allore
Osman, who has been investigating the Iranian ship, said. "It is not
carrying a normal shipment."
"We cannot inspect the cargo yet," Osman said. "But we are sure that it
"Our sources say it contains chemicals, dangerous chemicals," Andrew
Mwangura, the director of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme,
Within days, the pirates sustained skin burns, lost hair and became
critically ill. Soon after, at least 16 pirates died.
"We don't know exactly how many, but the information that I am getting
is that some of them had died," Mwangura told the Sunday Times on Sept. 28.
"There is something very wrong about that ship."
The U.S. Treasury
Department said IRISL regularly falsifies shipping documents to hide the
identity of end users, uses generic terms to describe shipments and operates
under various covers to circumvent United Nations sanctions.
"IRISL's actions are part of a broader pattern of deception and
fabrication that Iran uses to advance its nuclear and missile programs,"
Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey said. "That conduct should give pause
to any financial institution or business still choosing to deal with Iran."
Industry sources said IRISL relayed $200,000 to a Somali broker for the
release of the ship. But the ship was not released as IRGC refused to send a
delegation to return the ship to Iran. Reports from Somalia said the U.S.
Navy has offered $7 million to examine Iran Deyanat.
"They [Iranians] told the pirates that they could not come because of
the presence of the U.S. Navy," Osman said.
Both Israel and the United States have intensified efforts to identify
the contents of Iran Deyanat. An industry source said the two countries were
concerned that the shipment was meant for Hizbullah, which could then use the
chemical weapons agents for its huge missile and rocket arsenal.
Somali officials have assessed that Iran Deyanat was meant for the Al
Qaida network in Somalia. They the destination of
the ship was thought to be Eritrea.
"It was heading to Eritrea to deliver small arms and chemical weapons to
Somalia's Islamist insurgents," two U.S. analysts, Nick Grace and Abdiweli
Ali, wrote in an analysis.