Puntland Maritime Police Force

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Puntland Maritime Police Force
Abbreviation PMPF
Logo of the Puntland Maritime Police Force
Flag of Puntland.svg
Flag of Puntland
Motto A professional, locally recruited coastal police force that fights piracy and protects Puntland's marine resources
Agency overview
Formed 2011
Employees 1000
Legal personality Governmental: Government agency
Jurisdictional structure
National agency SOM
Primary governing body Puntland
Secondary governing body Puntland Constitution
General nature
Operational structure
Elected officer responsible Said Mohamed Rage, Head of Anti-Piracy Program
Agency executives
  • Abdinasir Bihi Sofe, PMPF Director
  • Abdirizak Dirie Farah, PMPF Commander
Parent agency Puntland Security Force

The Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) is the coastal police force of Puntland, an autonomous region in northeastern Somalia.


The Puntland Maritime Police Force is a locally recruited, professional maritime security force. It is primarily aimed at preventing, detecting and eradicating piracy, illegal fishing, and other illicit activity off of the coast of Somalia, in addition to generally safeguarding the nation's marine resources.[1][2]

In addition, the Force provides logistics support to humanitarian efforts, such as repairing wells; delivering relief supplies, medical supplies, food and water; rehabilitating hospitals and clinics; and refurbishing roads, airports and other infrastructure. It also offers skills training programs to local communities.[2][3]


The PMPF was established after the Puntland administration in 2010 passed Somalia's first and only Anti-Piracy Law.[3]

The Force was formed in response to requests from the international community and the U.N. Security Council to establish local anti-piracy law enforcement institutions.[1] On March 2, 2012, Somalia Report published an official letter dated 2011 from the Transitional Federal Government notifying the UN of the Puntland authorities' intention to train a maritime security force. The Puntland administration had also already issued its own prior notice with respect to the training program. Somalia Report mentions that "it remains to be seen how the U.N. can both deny and confirm that the PMPF program is an official Somali government activity."[4]

According to former Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamud Farole, the Puntland government is committed to "fight against piracy in a combined approach: first, by strengthening internal security measures; and second, by actively engaging local communities."[1]

As of April 2014, Abdinasir Bihi Sofe serves as the force's Director.[5]


Pursuant to resolution 1772, resolution 1976 and resolution 2015, the UNSC has called for more structured international support for the Transitional Federal Government as well as Puntland and other regional authorities in Somalia in creating counter-piracy special courts, laws, prisons and policing capabilities. Resolution 1976 also encourages regional and federal actors to engage in more effective marine resource defence against illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping in areas under their jurisdiction.[4][6][7]

The Puntland Maritime Police Force has officially been supported by the United Arab Emirates since its formation in 2010. According to a Puntland presidential office representative, Puntland President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and UAE Ambassador to Somalia Mohamed Al Osmani reached an agreement on 28 March 2014 in Bosaso stipulating that the UAE government would continue to support the Puntland Maritime Police Force.[8]


Following a Transitional Federal Government-Puntland cooperative agreement in August 2011 calling for the creation of a Somali Marine Force, of which the already established PMPF would form a part, the Puntland administration resumed training of PMPF naval officials.[1]

Sterling Corporate Services[edit]

The UAE-funded Puntland Maritime Police Force training program was initially conducted by Saracen International/Sterling Corporate Services (SCS).[9] The partnership was criticized by the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG), which accused the SCS and PMPF in several reports of trying to form a "private army" in contravention of the 1992 arms embargo against Somalia. Follow-up investigations by Robert Young Pelton's Somalia Report and Dissident Nation concluded that the allegations were largely unfounded and politically motivated.[10][11] According to the Somalia Report, the SEMG papers constituted a deliberate attempt to shut down the PMPF. A few days after the Force was positively profiled in a Fox News piece by Lt. Colonel Oliver North, who was broadcasting live from Puntland on a PMPF training operation, two disparaging articles from South Africa-based publications also surfaced. The Somalia Report suggested that their timing pointed to a "looming back room media brawl" since both articles cited Bryden and/or the SEMG as a source and featured identical talking points.[10] The Puntland government shortly afterwards released a press statement where it likewise rejected the accusations, suggesting that the "SEMG reports to the U.N. Security Council have been drafted in an unprofessional manner and intentionally biased against the Puntland Government's consistent anti-piracy activities."[12]

Following a closed-door pact reportedly reached between the PMPF's UAE sponsor and UN officials to ensure compliance with international law, the Puntland authorities opted to end Sterling's work contract. According to SCS's lawyer, Wilna Lubbe, the "contract was terminated by agreement as the Government of Puntland now has the capacity to proceed with its antipiracy programme".[13]

In December 2012, a mission by the Working Group on the use of mercenaries assessed the deployment of private military and security companies in Somalia. While commending the Federal Government for its democracy-building efforts, it criticized the regional-based PMPF for operating outside of the constitutional framework allotted for Somalia's national security institutions. The delegation also indicated that the force exclusively reported to the regional president, and suggested that it had launched operations unrelated to piracy, including an alleged attempt to impede a Puntland presidential candidate's campaign in Bosaso. Faiza Patel, the Chairperson of the Working Group, consequently recommended that "the authorities must integrate the force into the agreed-upon Somali national security structure and ensure that it is used strictly for the purposes for which it is intended." Additionally, the delegation concluded that the PMPF was trained by South African personnel from Sterling Corporate Services. It also indicated that although it had received reports suggesting that Sterling/Saracen had previously been found to have violated the UN arms embargo on Somalia and that the firm's activities went beyond training, only some foreign personnel were still involved in the PMPF's operations and most of Saracen's activities had already ended. In addition, the Working Group welcomed the Federal Government's commitment to establish a system for registering and regulating private armed security companies. To this end, it pledged to assist the central authorities in setting up guidelines founded on international best practices in order to strengthen the government's control over the security sector.[14]

In October 2013, in an official communique addressed to the United Nations Security Council Chair Kim Sook, Deputy Prime Minister of Somalia Fowziya Yusuf Haji Adan requested the UN Secretary-General to terminate the work contract of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group's Coordinator Jarat Chopra vis-a-vis all present and future reporting duties for Somalia. According to the Minister, "two professionals representing Somalia, each of whom has more than 25 years of experience conducting sophisticated investigations[...] found the coordinator to be obstructive of Somalia's continuing desire to ensure completeness in its candor with the United Nations and its constituent organizations."[15] Chopra said he and his team of seven experts stood by their report, and indicated that although he had not seen the government's rebuttal, the two firms that prepared it may have had "ulterior motives and vested financial interests" since they were also reportedly involved in other commercial projects in the country whose contracts had not yet been published.[16]

Bancroft Global Development[edit]

In June 2012, the Puntland government indicated that it had contracted the U.S.-based private military firm Bancroft Global Development to take over general training of the Puntland Maritime Police Force. Bancroft also serves as a subcontractor for the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM).[13][17]

The UN Working Group (UNWG) later reported that Bancroft had informed the UNWG that it had not signed any agreements with the PMPF. However, the company indicated that it had conducted a comprehensive assessment and audit of the PMPF, the Force's facilities, military equipment and inventory, and staff medical checks. According to the UNWG, Bancroft officials noted breaches of the arms embargo that was at the time in effect on Somalia. The firm subsequently requested and received from AMISOM the right to withdraw from any involvement with the PMPF. Bancroft also reportedly submitted its assessment document to AMISOM, with authorization pending to forward it to the EU and other international bodies.[17]

At the behest of the Somali federal government, the United States,[18] African Union,[19] Arab League,[20] and IGAD,[21] the 15-member UN Security Council unanimously approved Resolution 2093 on March 6, 2013 to suspend the 21-year arms embargo on Somalia.[22] The endorsement officially lifts the purchase ban on light weapons for a one year period, but retains certain restrictions on the procurement of heavy arms.[22]

Japanese Coast Guard[edit]

As of November 2011, the Japanese Coast Guard is providing additional training in maritime law enforcement to PMPF officials.[23]

EU Training[edit]

On 27 March 2014, a Puntland government delegation including President Ali and cabinet ministers met with EU representatives aboard a NATO ship. The meeting concluded with an announcement by the European Union officials that the EU would begin training Puntland Maritime Police Force units in Djibouti.[24][25] The new training schedule is intended to help the Puntland authorities strengthen their marine defense capabilities in keeping with the New Deal Compact's Somali Maritime and Resources Strategy.[24][26]


In January 2012, the PMPF began an initial recruitment intake of volunteers. The men then took part in a six-month training course and were supplied with boats and trucks.[27]

In late February 2012, the PMPF commenced a second recruitment cohort of more than 400 volunteers. The new recruits were issued basic equipment, eating utensils and sleeping gear, and underwent medical, physical and administrative exams. They began a six-week basic training course on March 10, 2012, with formal training expected to last six months. Several senior, junior and non-commissioned officers of the Puntland Security Force were chosen to accompany the new recruits during their training regimen. The former are slated to compose the principal leadership for future training and counter-piracy missions. Additional recruitment drives are also scheduled during the year.[28]


Since its establishment, the PMPF has been deployed in various missions. During the 2011 drought, the force assisted in humanitarian efforts, including a water and food supply program in southern Puntland.[3]

On January 15, 2012, the PMPF was also deployed to Qaw town to combat pirates and human smugglers. According to a PMPF press release, the operation was coordinated between the Puntland leadership and the municipal authorities. The mission inaugurated an intensification of the administration's extant counter-piracy efforts on the coast, and was funded by the Puntland government.[27] According to Coordinator Hidig, the deployments were organized in response to reported attacks on commercial vessels en route to Bosaso, which impacted local trade.[27] He added that the force has plans to deploy more soldiers to pirate hubs, though the unit garrisoned at Qaw would remain stationed there.[27] Besides security activities, the PMPF was also mandated to engage in community support by restoring electricity to Qaw, fixing the roof of a school, and repairing parts of the town's water supply system.[27]

In addition, the Puntland Maritime Police Force was deployed to fight a massive fire that struck the Bosaso market.[27]

In March 2012, the PMPF dispatched a unit of officers and support elements to the littoral town of Eyl at the request of the municipal authorities. The move is intended to ensure permanent security and anti-piracy protection in the area, and to support the local administration. To this end, PMPF soldiers are expected to establish a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in the town earmarked for counter-piracy activities, to begin construction of a logistics airstrip, and to engage in water-drilling.[4]

Between May 6, 2012, and June 8, 2012, the Puntland Maritime Police Force began intensive counter-piracy operations in the littoral areas of the Bari, Nugal and Karkar regions. The PMPF reportedly succeeded in blocking off potential pirate ransom supply routes, in the process forcing two hijacked vessels to leave the Bari seaboard for the Indian Ocean. Aboard one of the commandeered ships was wanted pirate leader Isse Yuluh, who had been implicated in at least one hostage-taking plot, among other illicit maritime activity.[29]

On May 26, 2012, a PMPF unit led by Commander Colonel Abdirizak Dirie Farah and accompanied by senior Puntland government officials was deployed to the coastal Hafun district. The following day, the Force began local security operations and apprehended 11 pirates that had established a base in the area.[30] The police also impounded a Toyota truck, seven AK-47 assault rifles and one heavy machine gun from the site.[31] Among the captured individuals was Mohamed Mohamud Mohamed Hassan (Dhafoor), a pirate sought by the Puntland authorities for his purported role in the hijacking of commercial vessels along the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean shipping lanes. Dhafoor was also reportedly among the group of pirates who had killed five PMPF soldiers and wounded eight others during a PMPF hostage rescue effort in March 2011 in Hul Anod, where a kidnapped Danish family had been held.[30]

In June 2012, PMPF personnel met with communities on the Hafun seaboard and outlined plans for the latter's continued cooperation with the Force. A PMPF unit is also reportedly stationed in the area.[32]

In response to local reports that pirates were holding vessels that they had seized off of the coast of Bargaal, Puntland Maritime Police Force soldiers were dispatched to the district on June 4, 2012, to begin security operations. Unidentified helicopters were subsequently reported to have been combing the littoral for the captured ships. Commander Farah indicated that the pirates boarded the docked vessels and fled the district for the Indian Ocean upon learning of the PMPF's presence.[32]

According to a Puntland government official, Puntland security forces launched an aerial assault on June 6, 2012, targeting a wanted pirate leader in the village of Bali Dhidid. Soldiers aboard a helicopter fired on a house where pirate leader Isse Yuluh was believed to have been staying, possibly injuring him. Three vehicles were reportedly destroyed in the attack, but Yuluh managed to escape.[33]

On November 16, 2012, the PMPF captured a North Korea flagged vessel, the MV Daesan, which had been dumping 5,000 metric tons of waste in Puntland waters. The ship had originally been transporting cement from Oman to Mogadishu, but was turned away by the port's business authorities due to water-induced spoilage. The vessel was later spotted 13 nautical miles to the east of Bosaso, where it had reportedly been unloading toxic substances into the sea over a period of several days. Acting on the gathered intelligence, the Force deployed both air and maritime support to the area and took into custody the 33 person crew. On November 18, 2012, the Puntland government issued a press release condemning the vessel owners' and crew's waste dumping, which it described as an "illegal and environmentally destructive practice". It also indicated that the case would be tried in court.[34]

In December 2012, a group of eight rogue PMPF soldiers guarding the impounded MV Daesan and its crew briefly hijacked the vessel. However, the Puntland authorities managed to retrieve the ship within a period of 24 hours. The soldiers were subsequently detained in the Puntland military court on December 22, pending a trial. According to a Puntland government press release, the hijacking was a plot orchestrated by politically motivated individuals and pirates, with the aim of distracting attention away from the PMPF's concurrent rescue attempts of the long-held MV Iceberg 1 and its crew.[35][36]

On December 23, 2012, PMPF troops concluded a two-week siege operation against the Panama-flagged MV Iceberg 1 in the coastal town of Gara'ad.[36][37] The vessel had been hijacked over two years prior, on March 29, 2010.[37] Acting on gathered intelligence that pirates were holding the commandeered ship's crew on board as opposed to separate locations, the Force first attempted a direct rescue of the hostages on December 10. When this failed, PMPF units blockaded the vessel, killing three pirates and capturing three others who were attempting to smuggle in weapons reinforcements. The MV Iceberg 1 was subsequently taken into Puntland government custody, and all 22 of its rescued crew were given medical attention.[36][38]

On April 24, 2013, PMPF soldiers arrested 78 Iranian sailors that were illicitly fishing off the coast of Bosaso. The Force was acting on a tip that illegal fishing vessels were operating between the Elanyo and Qow districts, with five such boats later found in the area. The foreign ship crew was accompanied by 12 Somali personal guards, who briefly engaged PMPF troops in a shootout before also being apprehended. According to Commander Farah, the sailors and their guards are expected to face the Puntland courts. The PMPF also plans more such operations against illegal fishing vessels.[39]

In November 2013, during the 2013 Somalia cyclone, the Puntland Maritime Police Force participated in relief efforts overseen by the Puntland Disaster Management and Rescue committee. PMPF units assisted in the transportation of emergency supplies, including blankets, tents, non-perishable food items and medicines to the impacted parts of the region. They also took photographs using special boats, which captured images of submerged earth roads connecting urban centers with rural areas, as well as flattened houses and fallen trees blocking off parts of the Bosaso-Galkayo highway.[40]

On 7 May 2014, Puntland Maritime Police Force soldiers in collaboration with local residents seized four Yemeni fishing boats that were reportedly fishing illegally in Puntland territorial waters in the Bari region. According to PMPF Commander Abdirisak Dirie Farah, 62 Yemenis and 7 Somali nationals were arrested during the operation, which took place near the town of Bargal. The suspects were being held in the coastal town for further interrogations.[41]


As of March 2012, the PMPF has around 500 troops. The Force is eventually expected to comprise 1,000 soldiers.[4]


The Puntland Maritime Police Force possesses both maritime and land security capacities. As of 2012, it also has aerial capabilities, having acquired at least one helicopter.[33]


On October 4, 2012, the PMPF celebrated its second anniversary at an event held in Bosaso. The gathering was attended by various Somali and foreign officials, and included an aviation show by the first locally trained pilots since the outbreak of the civil war.[42]


No. Name Command
1 Said Mohamed Rage[43] Head of Anti-Piracy Program
2 Abdinasir Bihi Sofe[5] PMPF Director
3 Abdirizak Dirie Farah[30] PMPF Commander
4 Abdirisak Mohamed Mohamoud (Hidig)[27] Coordinator


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