Ever More Violent

The modern pirates of Somalia are no swashbuckling buccaneers. They are maritime bandits, disrupting one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and costing the global economy billions. Recently, they’ve stepped up their brutality. What caused this piracy? How can it be stopped?

Somali pirates increase brutality
Pirates’ torture of kidnapped crew members is becoming commonplace.

By Tristan McConnell, Global Post

NAIROBI, Kenya — The crew of the Shiuh Fu-1 had been held hostage off the Somali coast for more than a year this January, when their captors took an exceptionally violent step to extract a $3 million ransom.

The pirates held down the Taiwanese trawler’s captain, Chao-I Wu, and sawed off his lower arm. Afterward, other crewmembers were forced to phone their relatives. They were allowed to talk just long enough to beg for their lives.

Wu’s shocking torture, reported by the Somalia Report website, is an extreme example of a dire trend toward harsh and violent abuse of hostages by Somali pirates.

Both sides of the Somali pirate wars have escalated their tactics, and although there have been some successes, the problem appears to be metastasizing.

Despite patrols by navies from the US, Europe and Asia, piracy continues to plague Somalia’s 2,000-mile Indian Ocean coast, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. There were 237 attacks in 2011, up from 219 the previous year. Sixty-five crewmembers have died in the pirate wars over the last five years, and the violence against sailors is mounting, according to Save Our Seafarers, a maritime advocacy group.

Somali pirates committed 54 percent of the world’s attacks on ships in 2011, and they currently hold captive 14 ships, with 199 sailors awaiting ransom, according to the United Nations’ International Maritime Bureau.

Last year shipping firms paid ransoms averaging $5 million to free their vessels and crew. An estimated $160 million in ransoms was paid for 31 ships, but that’s just a fraction of the costs of Somali piracy, which runs as high as $6.9 billion a year.

Shippers are fighting back, deploying armed guards and novel weapons to ward off the assailants. Although the attacks by Somali bandits increased, successful hijackings decreased, from 49 to 28 as a result of increased security measures.

Still, the battle is far from won, and the………[access full article]

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