Somali pirates' killing of Americans signals increasing turn toward violence
Four Americans on a yacht off the coast of Somalia were fatally shot by pirates as the U.S. attempted to negotiate their release, according to a U.S military statement announced Tuesday. Somalia pirates had hijacked the Americans' vessel off the coast of Oman.
Despite the fact that pirates have been terrorizing the waters around Somalia for nearly a decade, the killing of the Americans is a departure from their usual conduct and is another signal that the seafaring war is spiraling further out of control.
Though pirate attacks cost the world economy between $7 billion to $12 billion a year, pirates went out of their way to avoid violence, seeing their hostages as their "only assets," Wired quoted one as saying in 2009. However, just three weeks ago, Wired noted that the trend was changing. "For all their criminal behavior, Somali pirates have not gone out of their way to directly hurt or kill seafarers -- until now."
The article states:
There's a real risk of out-of-control escalation in the pirate war. Crews get better defenses, so pirates get more violent. In response, governments begin treating pirates like terrorists -- an approach Central Command naval boss Vice Adm. Mark Fox advocated last week. "There cannot be a segregation between terrorist activity, in my mind, and counter-piracy. We can't be passive and hopeful it doesn't happen."
Pirates have also begun to torture captives, as an interview on Feb. 1 with EU naval chief Maj. Gen. Buster Howes revealed:
"There have been regular manifestations of systematic torture," he said. If warships approached a pirated ship too closely, the pirates would drag hostages on deck and beat them in front of naval officers until the warship went away, Howes said.
"A few years go, they were very constrained and much more respectful" to hostages, he said, but now "they've shown a willingness to use violence much more quickly and much more violence."
The rise of piracy can be traced back to 1991, when warlords ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The country was carved into fiefdoms and the army, police, navy and coast guard dismantled. However, the number of pirate attacks sharply increased in 2005, to 35 violent incidents, compared with just two for all 2004. The International Maritime Bureau classes waters off Somalia, located in the Horn of Africa, as some of the most dangerous in the world.
The U.S. Navy released a map in 2007 showing the attacks of the pirates along the coast of Somalia (Click on it for full PDF):
From a 2006 report by the Post's Emily Wax:
"We have pirates, we have militias. This is not even a country or a place with stable structures. It's like working in an earthquake, even though there's no earthquake," Stephanie Savariaud, an information officer with the U.N. World Food Program, said in an interview in Wajid, Somalia, a dusty town 300 miles from the coast. "Somalia is one of the most complex emergency situations in the world."
With the latest deaths at the hands of pirates, that emergency will likely only get worse.
| February 22, 2011; 12:49 PM ET
Categories: The Daily Catch
Save & Share: Previous: Libya reports filter out despite Internet clampdown (Live updates)
Next: Gaddafi: Libyan leader's scandals over the years
Posted by: thomasmc1957 | February 22, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ecartr5 | February 22, 2011 1:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Rainier1 | February 22, 2011 1:34 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: concernedcitizen68 | February 22, 2011 2:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: rjm1 | February 22, 2011 2:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: zziggeraut | February 22, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: billyvw | February 22, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Rubiconski | February 22, 2011 5:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jhrothenberg | February 28, 2011 2:33 PM | Report abuse