Four Americans sailing on a yacht off the coast of Oman were taken hosyage by Somali pirates Friday afternoon. The yacht was in route from India to Oman. Jean and Scott Adam, the yacht owners have been sailing it around the world since 2002 according to their website. Last year they picked up two new crew members. Somalia has had no functioning central government since 1991, allowing piracy to flourish off its coast. Somali pirates have made millions in recent years capturing cargo vessels in shipping lanes around the horn of Africa and holding its crew for randsom.
Somali pirates captured three civilian fisherman last week, but the fisherman were returned when the pirates learned they were from Sri Lanka. Interestingly, the fisherman said the pirates first asked if the boat was an Iranian vessel. Somali pirates have attacked Iranian ships before, and Iran has deployed military vessels to monitor and help protect shipping routes the Somali pirates often attack. However, many other countries have military in the Somali waters so it is a wonder why the pirates asked specifically about Iran.
When the fisherman were let go, the pirates told them “Somalia and Sri Lanka the same,” because both countries are very poor and don’t have money. The pirates demanded no ransom and let the sailors go, but is this a sign of conciousness of the pirates or did they simply realize they would not get any money out of people from such a poor country?
The Somali pirates have stated they believe they are protecting the waters of their country from pollution and illegal fishing. The pirates have stated that these activities are hurtful to Somalia’s economy and that their activities are a just, defensive retribution for “stolen resources.” Some of these claims appear legitimate, but with things like the UN and the immense amount of global communication available, the pirates should be pursuing their goals in a more diplomatic manner, unless they have other motivations for their activities.
Somali man, Abduwali Abukhadir Muse pleaded guilty to the taking of the Maersk Alabama in 2009. Muse hijacked the ship in the Gulf of Aden around the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. He was convicted of two felony counts of hijacking a maritime vessel, two felony counts of kidnapping, and two of hostage taking. Muse was sentenced to 405 months in jail for high seas piracy and kidnapping. His sentence also included punishment for the hijacking of two other vessels in March and April that involved hostages.
Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama, was taken by Muse. Phillips was terrorized with the rest of his crew for five days, and was finally rescued by NAVY seals after being discovered at hostage in a lifeboat not far from the Alabama. Initially, Phillips was hailed as a hero for exchanging himself for the crews safety, but the crew later explained that he ignored warnings to stay away from shipping lanes where the attack took place. Phillips returned to the sea a year after the incident, but was not reassigned to the Maersk Alabama. Muse was the only hijacker to survive the rescue and now shows remorse for his actions. “I’m sorry very much for what happened to victims on ship, I am very sorry for what I have Caused, I was recruited by people more powerful than me.”
Disagreement between the Southern Sudan government and forces loyal to a militia leader led to the death of 105 in Sudan. After Southern Sudan voted to split from Sudan and create a new nation, forces loyal to militia leader George Athor skipped negotiations and attacked the town of Fanjak. The result: 20 soldiers, 39 civilians, and 30 attackers dead. Athor and forces also attacked the town of Bor where 4 soldiers lost their lives along with 12 attackers totally 105 casualties over the disagreement.
The head of these attacks in the Southern Sudan, Geroge Athor, formed an army in 2010 after he was not elected governor of the state of Jongeli. He blamed the government of election fraud, but – to his dismay – eventually signed a truce with the government in early 2011. While the Southern Sudan readies for independence in July violence continues to break out against the split nation. Militia leader Gabriel Tang led a charge of JUI’s (Joint Integrated Units) into the South which resulted in 50 military deaths and 65 civilian injuries.
Lines seem to be blurred for Southern Sudan with government verse military and military verse military. Civilians are caught in the middle of the chaos and destruction of freedom fighting. It seems every issue and every debate involves war, conflict, and the cost of human life. The most tragic part of it all – with each new headline, attack, death toll – the world grows more desensitized to violence as a form of problem solving.