Somali Pirates Seize American Yacht
The ongoing saga of piracy off the coast of Somali is about to get Americans' attention again, as a yacht containing four U.S. citizens has been hijacked.
The ongoing saga of piracy off the coast of Somali is about to get Americans’ attention again, as a yacht containing four U.S. citizens has been hijacked.
CNN (“Somali pirates seize yacht with four Americans onboard“):
Somali pirates hijacked a yacht with four Americans onboard in the Indian Ocean, U.S. military officials said Saturday.
The identities of the Americans were not immediately known, but the yacht, the S/V Quest, is owned by Jean and Scott Adam, according to Ecoterra International, a piracy watchdog group. It is not clear whether the Adams — who were on a worldwide cruise — are onboard.
The Adams website documents their worldwide voyage, which started in late 2004. It includes trips to New Zealand, China, Cambodia and Panama. On the site, the Adams say their mission “is to allow the power of the word to transform lives … (and) seek fertile ground for the word and homes for our Bibles.”
U.S. military officials said they are keeping an eye on the situation. “We are aware of the situation and we are monitoring the situation carefully,” said Bob Prucha, a spokesman for the United States Central Command. “We have been aware for some time.”
Piracy has flourished off the coast of Somalia, which has not had an effective government for two decades. In April 2009, pirates seized the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama, leading to a standoff in the Indian Ocean. U.S. forces moved to rescue American Capt. Richard Phillips after seeing a pirate aiming a weapon on his back, officials said at the time. Three pirates were killed and one was arrested. The Somali man arrested was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison.
AP (“Pirates hijack 4 Americans; US mulls responses“)
The United States government on Saturday said it was assessing possible responses after Somali pirates hijacked a yacht with four Americans on board in the Arabian sea off the coast of Somalia.
Pirates hijacked the yacht Quest on Friday, two days after a Somali pirate was sentenced to 33 years in prison by a New York court for the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama. That case ended in a spectacular rescue when Navy sharpshooters killed two pirates holding Capt. Richard Phillips.
Pirates have increased attacks off the coast of East Africa in recent years despite an international flotilla of warships dedicated to protecting vessels and stopping the pirate assaults.
Multimillion dollar ransoms are fueling the trade, and the prices for releasing a ship and hostages have risen sharply. One ransom last year was reported to be $9.5 million. Pirates currently hold 30 ships and more than 660 hostages, not counting the attack against the Quest.
The prison sentence given to Muse this week could have implications on the hijacking of the Quest and the four Americans. Pirates have turned increasingly violent in their attacks, and naval officials say pirates have begun systematically torturing hostages and using them as human shields.
Earlier this week a Somali pirate told an Associated Press reporter in Somalia that pirates would target Americans in retaliation for the sentencing. The pirate, who identified himself by the name Hassan, said Americans would suffer “regrettable consequences.”
Pirates have recently tied hostages upside down and dragged them in the sea, locked them in freezers, beaten them and used plastic ties around their genitals, the commander of the European Union anti-piracy force, Maj. Gen. Buster Howes told AP this month.
Whatever the wisdom of traveling dangerous waters to proselytize in desperate societies with unstable governments, these people have the right to travel in international waters unimpeded. And, despite a combined operation involving NATO, the European Union, Russia, China, and others, we’re thus far failing to do much about piracy in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden.
The fact of the matter is that counter-piracy operations are exceedingly difficult. The ocean is vast and pirates on small boats can easily operate around navies. Most experts agree that the solution to piracy is on land, not at sea. But stabilizing governments and eradicating poverty in that part of the world is more daunting than chasing down pirates and smugglers.