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Hijacker Deaths Anger Fellow Pirates

Unlike the romanticized image of 18th-century swashbucklers put forth by Hollywood, modern-day Somalis often turn to piracy as one of few ways to earn a living in their anarchic nation

Obama vows to stop rise of piracy off African coast

By Matthew B. Zeidman


WASHINGTON (RPRN/HT) 4/14/09 – Sunday’s rescue of American freighter captain Richard Phillips from his pirate captors was a seamless success for the U.S. Navy, but the deaths of three out of four of the would-be hijackers have spurred harsh words from fellow pirates in Somalia.

“From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill [the hostages],” said 30-year-old Somali pirate Jamac Habeb in an interview with the Associated Press. “[U.S. forces have] become our number one enemy.”

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama announced his intention to stem the growth of piracy off the lawless Somali coastline, which includes the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

“We remain resolved to halt the rise of piracy in this region,” Obama said in a statement Sunday. “To achieve that goal, we must continue to work with our partners to prevent future attacks, be prepared to interdict acts of piracy and ensure that those who commit acts of piracy are held accountable for their crimes.”

The sole remaining pirate is currently in U.S. custody and will likely be arraigned in an American court, which is permitted by international law, since the attacked ship was operating under a U.S. flag. Because hostage-taking was involved, the pirate in question could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty.

Phillips was rescued Sunday after five days on a stolen lifeboat, which was taken after the rest of the crew of the Maersk Alabama overpowered the pirate attackers and flummoxed the planned hijacking. The pirates originally asked for $2 million in exchange for Phillips’ release. Other pirate vessels had attempted to intercept the lifeboat, but were turned away by U.S. warships.

Military officials had standing orders to open fire on the pirates if they thought Phillips’ life was in danger. When one of the pirates pressed an automatic weapon to his back, Navy SEAL snipers on the U.S.S. Bainbridge opened fire, killing three of the hostiles. Phillips had previously tried to escape by swimming to safety, but swam back to the lifeboat after one of the pirates allegedly fired warning shots.

Somalia and its northeast African coastline have been a hotbed of piracy in recent years, following the collapse of the country’s military-run government in 1991. Area pirates commonly hijack commercial vessels and hold their crews for multi-million-dollar ransoms. The current transitional government has no law-enforcement infrastructure capable of restoring nationwide order.

Hollywood Today


About The Author

Matthew B. Zeidman is a freelance reporter working for Hollywood Today, RushPRnews, and other news outlets.

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