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Saturday
11Apr

Pirates

For the past few months, Somali pirates have been making big news, highjacking several freighters on the Indian Ocean, off the Yemeni, Somalia, Kenyan, and Tanzanian coasts.  There is currently drama on the Indian Ocean surrounding the US-flagged Maersk Alabama of the Somalian coast.  The ship was seized by four pirates a few days ago.  This is apparently the first time an American vessel has been seized since the Barbary Pirates were plying their trade centuries ago.

The vessel was liberated by the crew, who kidnapped one of the priates and held him, whilst the rest of the pirates kidnapped the vessel's captain and held him.  The plan was to exchange hostages, but something went awry and the pirate was returned, the captain was not.  Today, the Maersk Alabama reached port in Kenya, under guard by the US Navy Seals, minus Capt. Richard Phillips.  Phillips remains in the custody of the pirates.  Amazingly, the pirates opened fire on an apparent US Navy reconnaissance earlier today.  The Americans, however, turned back, to avoid escalating the situation.

The pirates hold the ships for ransom, last year, shipping companies turned over no less than 80$ million USD as ransom.  This is a profitable business for the pirates, in other words.

The BBC recently suggested that the fact that Somalia has essentially been without a government since 1991, which has fuelled lawlessness there, which has, in turn, allowed the pirates to thrive.  Indeed, Somalia is called a "failed state" by the Beeb.  The International Chamber of Commerce's Commercial Crime Service has a map showing pirate attacks worldwide last year, which clearly shows this is more than just a Somalian issue, but this is the location that is getting the attention.

But what I find even more amazing is how brazen these pirates are.  Attacking an American merchant ship is one thing, but to essentially thumb their noses at the US Navy and all its fire power is something else entirely. One also wonders what the response of the Americans will be long term.  What is their response going to be against the pirates who have kidnapped Phillips?  But more importantly, what will be the American response, if any, towards Somalia?  

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