Who Are the Somali Pirates?

The AP has a long and interesting article on the background of the Somali pirates. Not surprisingly, they come from the ranks of the young, poor and unemployed, looking for a way out of despair.

Hostages say they are generally well treated, with the pirates viewing them as common men caught in a wider game: the pursuit of million-dollar ransoms from owners. Some have described the pirates slaughtering and roasting goats on board to feed them, and passing around satellite phones to let them call loved ones back home.

As for a solution, this makes sense:

All analysts agree that the best way to quash piracy off Somalia is to achieve stability onshore, where civil conflict has raged for the last 18 years.

Update below from a Kenyan newspaper:

“We can smell the cash near,” said Mr Yassin Dheere, a former fisherman who has become a wealthy financier of piracy based in the coastal village of Eyl. Shopkeeper Abdullahi Said said about 50 cars, belonging to pirates and their associates, had poured into the rocky settlement in the last few days.

“Eyl had been calm and lifeless, but now it is a city again. The population has grown and business is good,” he said. The pirates earned dozens of millions of dollars in ransoms during their unprecedented capture of 42 vessels in 2008, splashing it on wives, houses, cars and fancy goods.

Though their attack on a US-flagged freighter failed this week, yielding only the American captain as a hostage in a precarious standoff , the pirate gangs have had a run of success elsewhere.

< Somali Pirates Hijack Another U.S. Owned Vessel | Saturday Open Thread >
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    They're pirating the aid (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by Cream City on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 12:33:55 PM EST
    sent by other countries for the suffering Somalis.  That aid will be curtailed -- especially from the French, I bet, after the killing of the French hostage in front of his French wife and child.  (It may have been "friendly fire" by French forces, which shows the dangers of the hostage rescues -- but the French will not be forgiving, no matter whose ammo proved fatal to that boat owner.)

    achieve stability onshore? (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Dadler on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 12:45:34 PM EST
    Now there's an easy fix.  Got half a century?  Colonialism or tribalism, take your pick.  You can say we have no choice, which is undoubtedly true, but how many other places on the globe have we said that about.  We only care because of our ships and their cargo.  We don't give a rat's ace about actually making anything better onshore.  If we did, it would only be so we can suck profit or resources out of the place.

    Modern weaponry spread like pollen spores, combined with modern failed states, equal violent problems whose true scope we are unable to grasp, or accept, and whose remedy is, right now, impossible for us to formulate and carry out.  

    I saw (none / 0) (#12)
    by Ga6thDem on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 02:22:17 PM EST
    that "stability" thing too and had the same reaction.

    yeah (none / 0) (#1)
    by connecticut yankee on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 12:11:10 PM EST
    In general these guys seem more like rank and file gangsters.  Like the black hand societies in the US in the early 20th century.  Pay x or we do y.

    But the money trail may be more of a threat.  I'm curious if any goes to feeding terrorism in the way the diamond smuggling benefited terrorism.

    That would be a good local solution... (none / 0) (#2)
    by EL seattle on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 12:19:28 PM EST
    ... but looking at this MAP, there are other areas of concern on the high seas, even though the coast of Somalia is the current danger zone.

    I doubt if the general piracy problem is one of those challenges that really lends itself to easy answers.  (But it's nice to dream.)

    What's the difference (none / 0) (#5)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 12:51:34 PM EST
    between pirates and terrorists?  Sounds like both background and behaviors are similar.

    Pirates aren't generally politically (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by inclusiveheart on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 01:39:33 PM EST
    motivated - not these anyway.  It is all about the money for pirates.

    The guys holding that captain just want to get their money and go home.  The "terrorists" want to make a point about whatever they care about and don't always plan on ever going home.


    It's the (none / 0) (#10)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 01:46:01 PM EST
    "not these anyway" part of your description that continues the ambiguity.

    Some terrorists are only out for money too! ;-).


    I modified my sentence only (none / 0) (#11)
    by inclusiveheart on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 02:16:42 PM EST
    because siezing a ship at sea is "piracy" regardless of the motivation for doing so.  Not because a large number of people who are professional pirates are also terrorists.  But the point is that the Somali pirates aren't generally trying to terrorize people the way a typical political terrorist would.  In fact, their business around Somalia relies on repeat customers so they don't want people to stop coming their way altogether.

    Some of the drug trafficking cartel types in other places pirate vessels to transport their drugs and they often just kill everyone on board and take the boat.  Those are the pirates that I've had to be wary of in the places I've sailed.  Nothing ideological about those people - they are just doing a job which can end up making you shark bait.  But these Somolians are looking for their ransom money and the hostages are more valuable to them alive than they are dead.  That is one reason that this captain has a better shot than he would with terrorists or with the drug lords.


    And don't forget kidnappings. (none / 0) (#6)
    by EL seattle on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 01:08:23 PM EST
    That's a problem seems to be expanding that seems to be expanding to crisis proportions in many parts of the world.  (Often with terrorist connections.)

    I'm asking myself... (none / 0) (#8)
    by kdog on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 01:33:26 PM EST
    what is the difference between pirates and government.  As yank said, pay x or we do y....that could describe any government known to man too.  Pirates seizing ships and taking prisoners, governments seizing assets and taking prisoners.

    At least the pirates admit what they're doing is unjust, the governments of the world walk around in this phoney air of legitimacy while they pirate the fruits of labor.  Yeah, we have the right to vote...but like Charles Bukowski said,

    The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don't have to waste your time voting.

    I'd love a vig-free world as much as the next guy...but it's a pipe dream.  You have two choices, pay the vig or start spilling blood.    


    No taxation without representation. (none / 0) (#13)
    by connecticut yankee on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 02:24:03 PM EST
    Nations might be long-established criminal enterprises but they essentially make their citizens into made men. They provide services,  protection and sometimes input from the populous.

    When a group takes a cut from you and provides you no services or input beyond the removal of their own threats, that's probably the line.


    I see your point... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 02:31:55 PM EST
    In theory at least we are paying for services rendered.

    Pirates of Penzance (none / 0) (#7)
    by joze46 on Sat Apr 11, 2009 at 01:33:19 PM EST
    They are the Pirates of Penzance

    After watching the Fox News late night, Jeb Bush was on talking about the hate filled left controversy of Vice President Biden. You know I really laugh to think about all the years I have endured, actually more than a decade of hate radio slandering the hell out anyone just thinking about being a Democrat or a liberal.

    Both Limbaugh and Don Wade of ABC talk Chicago has for years slander the Democratic Party. Please understand that I consider myself a Conservative but now a Democratic Conservative.

    From my view these are the Pirates of Penzance, do a Google you might agree with my argument that these media cable and hate radio rouges are the real Pirates avoiding the message that they sacked the American Treasury. Bush likely in his best performance, felt comfortable along with a European based firm in real-state investment and development.

    One should wonder how much Penco needs that Federal Reserve money. Where there is a Bush there is bank scams get used to it.  So for days we hear about some manipulated Negro's, from Somalia Africa, likely totally illiterate stranded with no communications, and probably couldn't tell a real one hundred dollar bill from counterfeit one, or real diamonds from fake ones, yet starving out of gas holding hostage some American, for money, are demonized, some how is able to chime into million dollar caper. Please you have to understand I do feel sorry for the captain, but he did volunteer to save his ship. Very courageous.  

    As one person suggested if any of America corrupt corporations can deliver chaos the media can twirl this news issue into days if not weeks of filler as the Gilbert and Sullivan comedy "The Pirates of Penzance". Yet fulfill all that suggested by the theme of the Opera as those original pirates that avoid talking about the truth in America's economic mess.

    Jeb Bush Bulging in shredded paper work spending all of his time covering up the estimated one hundreds of millions if not  and tens of billions dollar Arab real-state  deals in Florida according to Gerald Posner in his book Secrets of the Kingdom.        

    Same comment as in the other thread... (none / 0) (#15)
    by Romberry on Sun Apr 12, 2009 at 06:53:33 AM EST
    I can't vouch for the claims made but there is an entry over at The Huffington Post which is at least interesting. See London Independent columnist Johann Hari's "You Are Being Lied to About Pirates."

    A point I will make on my own without regard to the Hari column is this: Your point of view about things often depends on where you happen to be standing when the fecal matter hits the air movement system. In our own war for independence, the Brits certainly considered us criminals, and under British law, they were right. We were a thieving, pirating, treasonous bunch. Anyway, I'm of the opinion that before rushing to judgment ("Kill 'em!"), it might be a good idea to step back and try getting the other side of the story. You may still feel that the other side is wrong, and the law may agree with you, but that doesn't mean the issue is black and white.