Friday, June 5, 2009

An in-depth look at how a ransom was delivered to Somali pirates

The BBC's Rob Walker yesterday posted a lengthy article (see it here) about what went on behind-the-scenes when a Danish-owned general cargo ship, the MV CEC Future, was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden last November. Before the vessel was released in mid-January of this year, there were lengthy negotiations between the ship's owners back in Denmark and the pirate captors in northern Somalia. The vessel itself was being kept off the coast near the pirate haven of Eyl, with her captive crew of 13 mariners.

Walker traveled to Hargeisa, in the breakaway region of Somaliland, to meet with the man who was the lead negotiator for the pirates, Ali Mohamed Ali. Mr. Ali had apparently spent 29 years living in the United States before returning to Somalia. He tells Walker that he became involved with the pirates in order to, "learn more about how they operate and then explain it to the world," something that the British journalist finds difficult to believe was Mr. Ali's only motivation.

Walker also describes the chaos that ensued once the ransom was delivered and everyone from pirates to local Eyl shopkeepers and businessmen demanded their cut of the take. But for many, the most fascinating part of his report is the video footage provided by a unnamed private security firm hired to deliver the ransom (reportedly between $1-2 million). You can see quite clearly how a small plane overflies the CEC Future and then drops a water-tight canister into the seas just off the hijacked vessel, which is soon retrieved by the pirates and taken aboard their prize.

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