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« Somali Pirates and Islamism | Main | Vive la guerre froid! »
Tuesday
14Apr

The Raid to Free Capt. Phillips

[UPDATED] Well, now we know what the American response to pirate attacks against American-flagged transport ships will be.  On Saturday night, US Navy snipers took out three of the pirates holding Capt. Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama, and took the other prisoner whilst freeing Phillips.  The move was approved at the highest echelon, by President Obama.  And as Associated Press notes, the attack "quashed fears the saga could drag on for months and marked a victory for the United States, which for days seemed powerless to resolve the crisis despite massing helicopter-equipped warships at the scene."

The attack on the pirates had all the drama of the high seas, the Commander of the USS Bainbridge, the US naval destroyer on the scene, observed on the pirates place a gun to Phillips' back, as if to execute him.  Then the decision was made to rescue Phillips.  Ironically, the fourth pirate, the one who ended up being captured, was in discussions with the US Navy at that moment to free Phillips  

But, before we celebrate the end of piracy, three more ships were seized last night, and perhaps more chillingly, the pirates are unrepentant.  According to Abdullah Lami, a pirate holding a Greek ship in the Somali town of Gaan, "Every country will be treated the way it treats us. In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying...We will retaliate [for] the killings of our men."  And Jamac Habeb, a pirate from the Somali town of Eyl (one of the hubs of piracy), stated that "from now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill [the hostages]...Now the [US forces] became our No. 1 enemy."

Last Friday, French forces launched a raid on a pirated French vessel last week, killing 2 pirates, capturing 3, and killing the owner of the private vessel they were trying to free.  Yet, pirates do not appear to be denouncing France in the same manner.

At the least, though, these denounciations of the United States on the part of the pirates are interesting, in that it suggests that there is common cause amongst them.  This might suggest greater organisations amongst the pirates in Somalia.

But what really interests me is whether or not the pirates will go through with their threats to kill Americans.  If they do, one would imagine the American response will be swift.  I wonder if an invasion of Somalia to capture/kill/eliminate the pirates and their strongbeds might not be in the offing on the part of the United States and its allies?  One would have to imagine now that Obama has authorised a daring raid such as this one, it ups the ante, and the Americans will have to continue to respond in kind if American ships are highjacked. 

Of course, there is also the possiblity that the pirates will do better at avoiding American-flagged ships in the future.  But it is also apparent that the armed forces of many Western nations, and NATO itself, are taking this threat seriously.  Aside from the Americans rescuing Capt. Phillips and the French raid on the private vessel, a Canadian warship, under the auspices of NATO, has dispatched a helicopter to monitor the HV Irene, one of the vessels highjacked last night.  The Irene is a Greek-flagged vessel with a predominately Filipino crew.

At the very least, what is apparent is that the issue of the Somali pirates has now moved from a curiousity on the larger geopolitical stage of the world to a main event.  

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