Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Somali Pirate News Update

... although I use the word "pirate" with great reluctance. As I and others who have a fondness for the Golden Age of Piracy (1690 - c.1730) have said again and again, the Somali oceanic hijackers and kidnappers have little or nothing in common with Calico Jack Rackman, Black Sam Bellamy, and Blackbeard. True, there were pirates - many of them, in fact - who exhibited cruelty towards their victims and sometimes their own as they raided the Caribbean and other waters. But there are enough differences to show beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Somali bunch are not pirates at all, but rather a whole new breed of terrorist.

Which brings us to today's update on what's been going on off the coast of Somalia, a nation that hasn't had a working government since the early 1990s and is pretty much an anarchic state ruled by a host of warlords. You may recall that the United States tried to establish order there before, but following the horrible "Black Hawk Down" incident, left Somalia to collapse on its own. And now we can see the result of that collapse.

The Daily Mail newspaper (in the UK) reported yesterday that Paul and Rachel Chandler are in horrible condition - Rachel especially - as they go into their fourth month of captivity. They are currently being held for ransom after they were seized from their yacht by the Somalis as they were attempting an around the world trip. You can find the article here.

The Somalis want something like 1.9 million pounds, and the British government says that they don't pay ransoms for anyone, anytime, anywhere. There is no word - at least anywhere I've seen - of a rescue mission, despite the pleas from the family and friends of the Chandlers and cries of outrage from others inside and outside the UK.

Meanwhile, a Greek ship and her crew were freed yesterday by a Somali gang after the shipping company paid an undisclosed sum. They, too, have been hostages since November. They are currently heading to Mombasa, in Kenya. Here's the article about that incident.

All in all, 47 ships were taken last year, and the gangs still have 200 crew members as hostages. Of course, these gangs are not a unified force, and have been known to fight between themselves over the ransom monies.