Crime Pays for Somali Pirates – by Stephen Brown


When it comes to the scourge of Somali piracy, the latest incident leaves one wondering whether to laugh or cry. At the very least, it should cause heads to shake and have people asking how the West is ever going to win the War On Terror.

The military news publication, Strategy Page, reports this week that the Dutch frigate, HNLMS Eversten, was ordered to release 13 Somali pirates it had captured earlier this month. The pirates were attacking a merchant ship when the Dutch intervened and apprehended them and their vessel.

However, instead of being clapped in irons to await trial, the Dutch captain was ordered to put the pirates back on their boat and release them. In addition, the Dutch sailors’ also had to provide the pirates, who not long ago would have been hung on the spot, with food and fuel to return to Somalia. (It is a wonder they were not sent on their way with apologies for any inconvenience.)

The only consolation regarding this sad state of affairs concerned the pirates’ weapons: they were not returned. But the way things are going, Western naval crews may eventually have to do just that, or be required to supply a substitute, like cash or DVDs (The Pirates of the Caribbean might be a big hit) to keep their former captives entertained during their trip home.

Once back at their bases, one can be assured such pillow-soft treatment will see the pirates not hesitate to return to terrorizing international shipping as soon as possible. They can easily obtain new weapons in war-torn Somalia. The International Maritime Bureau estimates the pirates’ number at about a thousand, organized in well-armed groups of 15 to 20. Last year, they earned about $50 million in ransom money from ships they had seized.

In the past, al Qaeda and Islamists in Somalia have both praised Somali piracy as part of the “fight against the West.” A leader of a Somali Islamist group called the pirates “part of the mujahedeen.

“They are waging war against Christian nations, who want to misuse the Somali coast,” he said.

Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the surge in pirate attacks in 2008. It called the campaign to seize ships and hold them for ransom a justifiable “new strategy”, since “fighters who aspire to establish the caliphate must control the seas and waterways.”

Counterterrorism consultant Olivier Guitta revealed the importance of the Somali piracy campaign to al Qaeda. Guitta stated al Qaeda “intends to take control of the Gulf of Aden and the southern entrance of the Red Sea, calling the area “strategic” to the Islamic terrorist group.

Al-Qaeda’s goal in seizing control of the vital waterways around the Horn of Africa leading to the Suez Canal is the removal of Western military bases from the Arabian Peninsula. It believes sea lanes weakened by “acts of piracy” and mujahedeen attacks will accomplish this.

The Somali piracy campaign also fits in nicely with al Qaeda’s plan to disrupt the American and other Western economies. It knows Western countries derive their military and cultural strength from their economic power, hence al Qaeda’s attack on America’s World Trade Center.

Al Qaeda wants to draw America and its allies into as many security sideshows as possible in order to further drain their treasuries. The New York Times reports that after 9/11, for example, the Department of Homeland Security spent $40 billion on the aviation security system alone. Tens of millions more can probably be added to that sum after the Northwest Airlines terrorist incident on Christmas Day, making it an al Qaeda victory in this respect despite the plot’s failure.

On the high seas around Somalia, al Qaeda’s strategy of death by a thousand financial cuts sees Western and other countries facing, besides ransom payments and the huge expense of maintaining an anti-piracy naval presence, increased insurance costs. Ships that reroute around South Africa to avoid the Somalia region, while escaping the insurance penalty, incur higher operating bills due to the longer voyage.

Considering the importance the Somali pirate campaign holds for al Qaeda in its long-term plans, it is a wonder that Western strategists have only come up with the harmless “catch and release” tactic as its main counter measure. Resembling a form of appeasement, it has not worked and instead has led to an increase in attacks.

Statistics from the Piracy Reporting Center of the International Maritime Bureau, as reported in New York Times this week, bear this out. Pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden and along the Somali coast have increased 200 per cent since 2007.  While 111 ships were attacked in this area in 2008, 214 have been attacked this year. Only last Monday, pirates seized a chemical tanker with a crew of 26 and a Greek bulk carrier.

Strategy Page notes that although the number of attacks was higher this year, the international naval patrols established to thwart the pirates reduced the number of successful attacks from 40 per cent in 2008 to 25 per cent in 2009. The ransom demands, however, increased and the pirates are now operating off Somalia’s east coast and in the Gulf of Aden to avoid the anti-piracy patrols.

Unfortunately, one can only expect the number of pirate attacks around Somalia to increase in the future. Somali pirates know Western countries seldom use force to free ships and pay large ransoms. According to Strategy Page, Western countries also refuse to attack the pirates’ bases for fear of causing civilian casualties and to avoid becoming bogged down in a land campaign in Somalia.

The fact the pirates seldom face prosecution and are usually released make piracy in that region almost a risk-free crime that encourages attacks. More unsettling, however, is that these weak, ineffective policies on the part of Western countries indicate a moral bankruptcy that could decide the issue of this war.

  • Like it is

    I cannot believe how some people have confused being civilized and humane with being fools.

    I know exactly what I'd do if I were in charge. Believe me, no one with a brain in their head would ever even consider thinking about pirating again. The way the civilized world deals with these criminals reminds me of negligent parents who let their offspring do whatever they want with no consequences.

    If you want to bring these third world countries into the reality of the world you teach them not to victimize other people. It's not as if they are distributing the money and building schools and farms, is it? No, they are buying better boats and weapons so they can come after us with better boats and weapons.

    I won't hold my breath waiting for anyone in power in this world to have any common sense about this. No, we'll just keep paying more and more for the things we buy because included in the price will be what has been paid to the pirates.

  • 2maxpower

    appeasement never works . the Dutch government is a disgrace.

  • Jamal

    What a loads of rubbish. Get your facts straight. Pirates have nothing to do with Islamists. Look at the Islamist controlled areas, there are no piracy activities. In fact, they hate each other.

  • 2maxpower

    I disagree with you Jamal.

    normally I do not respond to people who I cannot have a civil discussion but for the opportunity of pointing out to others where you are mistaken.

    firstly you need to understand that these pirates are muslims. (not christians, not buddists, not athiests not jews).

    the Koran and Muhammad's teaching and example permit plundering the infidel. …basically that is piracy. (theft and criminal activity to most people but not muslims following the Koran).

    the Dutch aren't patrolling the Mediterranean and those that are are not as sympathetic to pirates so you don't see a lot of piracy. (never-the-less I expect we will start to see it).

    all pirates aren't mulims or islamist, but the Somali ones are. they have the blessing and protection of their communities (this is another reason you do not see this in other muslim/islamist countries where the governments will not tolerate the attention that piracy would garner).

    if you think that the piracy is something new to islamists you don't need to go far back to see that this is par for the course. the barbary pirates etc.

  • Adheeb

    Steven Brown's statement, “More unsettling, however, is that these weak, ineffective policies on the part of Western countries indicate a moral bankruptcy that could decide the issue of this war.” is an excelent observation. The pathetically weak response of the West toward these people actually contributes to the problem. Not only do we need to pursue these pirates but we need to go after their families and supporter waiting on the beach. We bonbed the hell out of the German civilian population during WWII. These people and their families are no better than they.

  • Adheeb

    Jamal, me thinks you have missed the boat.

  • USMCSniper

    Piracy is illegal… so killing pirates is acceptable… sort of how cops kill robbers…

    If a ship has somalis on it, yes… blow it out of the water. Yes, innocents will die by bombing the ports but perhaps trade will benefit. Also many sailors' lives will be saved.

    Warn any hostile ship not to approach. A friendly ship will let you know… and then shoot the pirates!

  • Isis

    May be Peter Pan can help ?

  • jacob

    SNIPER :

    The stupidity of this Dutch frigate captain is unheard of…

    Would it be that he asked his sjperiors in HOLLAND what to do with these people and was actually ordered to release them and even give them food and fuel for the return trip to their base ??

    Granted :
    In today's stupid thinking and accursed 'PIOLITICAL CORRECTNESS”, to hang them from the highest mast would raise holy hell from all the bleeding-heart idiots loose in this world but, what would have happened if they would have sank the boat with everybody on board, letting them swim for land ??

    Perhaps the fear of somebody on board ratting, as hapened with the pictures on that Iraqi jail would have done whoever gave the order and therefore, this is why we are in the shape we are….

  • BS77

    Whatever happened to gunboat diplomacy? Two heavy destroyers could end this pirate nonsense in about a week….Go in close to shore and destroy every pirate vessel. Destroy every pirate vessel that ventures forth. Destroy their bases and burn their warehouses. End of story. Liberals act like blubbering helpless fools….Oh what can we do oh what can we do?? Send in the Navy and watch the problem disappear. Same with Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan…use the military…use precision guided bombs and missiles…take out the nuclear weapons facilities, wipe out the Al Queda bases and HQs, strike strike strike….put them on the run. But no, the best we can do is hold a circus trial in NY City…idiocy.

  • LindaRivera

    Every ship and boat must be armed with all of the military equipment that the Muslim jihadi pirates have: machine guns, rocket launchers and rockets, etc., under the control of trusted ex military. Why are boats and ships immorally ALLOWED to be defenseless prey? Why are the Muslim jihadi pirates ALLOWED to make fabulous sums of money for global jihad? Western leaders have NEVER shown that they want to win the world war waged against hated non-Muslim infidels. As this is the case, what do our leaders believe their role is? To surrender our countries to global Islamic conquest?

  • SpiritOf1683

    Worse still, he's got rocks for brains, just like the typical Mohammedan troll.

  • trapper

    Not killing pirates is akin to not executing captured non-uniformed combatants. We are guilty of the latter although the rules of warfare call for summary execution. The Dutch treatment of the pirates is not that inconsistent with our practices.

  • LindaRivera

    Turkey's Prime Minister, Erdogan, publicly read an Islamic poem: “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and Muslims our soldiers…”

    Crime pays for Somalis in the U.S. – Somali GANGS ATTACK Americans
    This is how Americans are thanked for taking in Somalis. For protection, non-Muslims should walk outside in groups. Is this just? Is this democracy that Americans are forced to live in fear from Somali Muslim immigrants? When people have to live in fear – freedom is DESTROYED. Where are the rights of Americans?

    Police investigate Somali attacks
    Submitted by Sun Journal on Thu, 12/17/2009 – 00:32
    By Mark LaFlamme, Staff Writer

    LEWISTON — In the early evening on the first day of summer, a large group of Somali boys approached a woman on the corner of Ash and Pierce streets. According to police reports, they intimidated the woman and slapped her in the back of the head before scattering into the downtown.

    Five days later, shortly after midnight, a man was accosted by a group of Somali boys outside the Big Apple on Main Street. Police reports say several members of the group punched the man and took money from him. They then fled in a car.

    Later that night, a woman in her late 60s was beaten by a group of Somali boys and relieved of cash while walking in Kennedy Park.

    Five nights later, another man was jumped by a group of similar description. He resisted the gang and was beaten badly. He required surgery.

    Throughout the summer, similar reports have come into the Police Department. Witnesses and investigators say swarms of Somali boys, some as young as 8, others in their late teens, overwhelm solitary victims through sheer numbers.

    “It's not gang activity in the traditional sense,” Deputy Chief James Minkowsky said. “We're not seeing the colors or the monikers, but it's still a gang mentality.”

    Often, these gang members carry sticks and rocks with which to intimidate their victims. There are often four or five of them, sometimes as many as a dozen. Typically, they threaten or beat their victims until they give up the goods: money, bicycles, cell phones, prescription drugs, or other items of value. Then they scatter.
    “By the time the call gets to us, the group has dispersed,” Minkowsky said.

    The attacks continued all summer; more than a dozen were reported to police. There were more in the fall and a series of them in recent weeks. In each attack, the victim is one who may have appeared weak to the group that descended on them.

    “They single out a person who is walking alone. The victim is often intoxicated,” Minkowsky said. “Or he might be small. They look for someone who is not likely to fight back or present much of a challenge.”

    On the first day of December, a man walking through Kennedy Park after leaving a Park Street club said he was attacked by four Somali males. The group came at him from behind, knocked him down and stole prescription drugs and $150 in cash. That man told police it was the second time he was attacked in such a fashion. The first time, he was able to escape.

    On the last day of November, there were three such attacks reported in Lewiston: one in the area of Central Maine Medical Center, another on Bartlett Street, the third in Kennedy Park.

    In another attack, a woman walking a dog in the park was set upon. The assailants, a group of Somali males, beat her dog with a stick. Police later tracked down one of the attackers. He was a 10-year-old boy.

    In late summer, an off-duty civilian police employee was eating at a local restaurant. A local boy ran to the window, screaming for help. The police employee ran outside and found a group — roughly a half-dozen — of Somali boys. When confronted, they ran off.

    In Britain, Sheikh Bakri: “We will use your democracy to destroy your democracy.”

  • Hasz

    You know nothing about what you are talking about and connecting pirates with Al-Q is ill-founded image. Please do your research with open brain. Did we forget about the Tuna wars in the 60s 70's in Ecuador? This is the same pattern repeating itself in differently level.
    Somali piracy (I call them Somali coast guards) has nothing to do with Muslim extremism, and its origin (s) based on self-defense. Western and Asian fishing fleets scrambled Somali fishing industry since the collapse of the Somali central government in 1990, and Somali fishers could not compete these illegal toxic dumpers and fishers. They had to go to the extreme to defend their income and above all, their ocean. To say al-Q have caused this or benefit piracy directly is baseless assertion on the eyes of Somali people (islamically, piracy is forbidden). Talk to Somali before you seat behind a screen and write what you want.

  • Hasz

    the problem is not the Somalis but rather your ships. Keep your ships on your seas and somali pirates will leave you alone. No need to go to somali ocean and then complain to pay the taxe(s). Pay as they ask since you are using their ocean. Somali's have nothing to cry for and if you use all you can they will do the same. Pay the taxe(s) dude!

  • bushlikesdick12

    It's a shame we have tens of thousands of troops standing around in Iraq pissing off Muslims when we could be putting them to better use in Somalia by bringing these pirates to justice.

    Not only is the American's jobs been pimped out by the conservatives they have also deprived our commerce protection due to their hoarding our military resources to meet their own needs and not of our country's interests.

  • TuMadre

    The only thing wrong with the Dead Somali Pirates Club is that the membership is just too low. I got rid of a drug-dealing, woman-beating, aggravated-burglarizing moron, in El Paso, about 15 years ago. Guess what? He no longer robs people at gunpoint, beats women, or sells drugs to high school kids. He's no longer a pain in anyone's ass. He joined the Dead Recidivist Moron Who The Legal System Had Been Unwilling To Deal With Club.

  • GJTryon

    So where's fearless warrior Obama? Wasn't he talking tough last year about cleaning things up? I still look back on the US Navy snipers killing those three despicable Somalis last April as one of the positive highlights of '09, if not the decade. A little action amid all the politics and blather is a like a freshening wind scattering a dense fog.