As reported, 34 Egyptian fisherman were captured by Somali pirates and held hostage since April. The Egyptian hostages managed to overpower their pirate captors, killing 7, and escaping to safety. Upon finding the bodies of 7 dead colleagues, the pirate spokesperson stated “We have found seven of our dead colleagues floating in the sea . . . The Egyptian crew members killed them … we used to welcome them and treat the Egyptians better than other hostages, but if we capture more of them we shall get our revenge.”
Piracy off the coast of Somalia is a growing problem. Relying on the lack of a functional Somali government to stop them, these pirates have hijacked hundreds of ships, holding the crews and ships for ransom. One stunning example is the hijacking of the MV Sirius Star, a supertanker far out at sea that was carrying $100,000,000 worth of crude oil. Pirates have killed innocent crew members, held others hostage for months, and seriously effected international commerce. Various countries have dispatched warships to the region, but with over 2.5 million square miles to patrol, those few warships can’t put an end to piracy. Every time pirates are paid multi million dollar ransoms, they are emboldened. Given the abject poverty and pervasive violence that comprises life in Somalia, there is no shortage of young men who are willing to become pirates, gladly risking their lives for a chance at making more money than they can even imagine.
The political situation in Somalia isn’t likely to improve anytime soon. Nor is it likely that the pirates will have a change of heart and stop victimizing innocent people. However, self defense is a viable solution. This Egyptian crew, which had been held hostage for months by violent pirates, still managed to break free, kill some of their captors, and escape to safety. Another ship, the Melody, had armed guards who used pistols and water hoses to fend off pirates who were armed with machine guns. As I’ve previously mentioned, arming more merchant crews would enable this sort of self defense, rather than having defenseless crews at the mercy of pirates with machine guns. Sadly, many countries do not allow armed ships to enter their ports, effectively forcing crews to ply the seas unarmed. Only when crews are armed, and trying to hijack a ship becomes tantamount to suicide, will this problem be solved.
One final thing I would like to note. The pirate’s spokesperson actually seemed to believe that the Egyptian crew was somehow in the wrong for killing their violent captors and escaping to safety. How any person can hold such a belief is truly beyond me, especially when the person in question sees murder and hostage taking on the high seas to be acceptable. Most of all, this statement, and its promise of revenge against other innocent people, reinforce the need for self defense.
My thanks to Anders for pointing out this story.