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Apr-13-2009 11:00printcomments

Somali Pirates Vow Revenge for Deaths

The Navy was almost certainly justified in shooting the pirates, and it is also certain that the decision to do that will compound the difficulty for existing pirate hostages.
Pirates off the Somali coast

(SALEM, Ore.) - Activists in Africa with EcoTerra, who have been working with the Somali pirate issue for years, are dismayed over the recent gunning down of teenage pirates who had held an American sea captain hostage in a lifeboat that was out of gas and dead in the water.

As it turns out, the pirates were killed while their boat was in tow by a U.S. Navy ship. They had willingly gone under tow when the Navy SEAL team opened fire on them.

Even though they were under tow, a pirate was reportedly holding an AK-47 to Captain Phillips as they were shot, and if that is the case, then it certainly could justify the action that took place. Still, there will be major fallout from this and the best way to resolve the situation is one that would not have sat well with the American public.

That approach would have been to let the village elders from the pirate's village talk them into trading the captain for their own lives. Instead, the elders were apparently only used to help bring the pirates into the Navy's sites, but maybe that is what needed to happen.

Yet in Somalia, in what are known as the pirate dens, there lives the thought that Americans seriously breeched honor and word. Criminals have always made deals, and apparently in their world booty is booty and a man's word is no less important.

Ecoterra's teams on the ground say the end result of the American action is that the pirates will now kill more and attempt to negotiate less.

EcoTerra said, "Spin-doctors are on it with high revs and on both sides of the Atlantic - in France (Le Grand Bastion or still La Grande Nation ?) as well as in the United States of America under Obama."


It is reported that the mediation offer by the pirate's village elders had a set-back when the U.S. Navy's American-passport-holding Somali interpretor, refused the plan to rescue the captain by the only feasible and quick, but peaceful solution available.

This was characterized by an "everybody-goes-home" approach, which could have been achieved by traditional Somali peacemaking efforts.

But the U.S. military apparently insisted on either killing or arresting the four young Somali pirates. EcoTerra suggests that the U.S. government wanted this more than to save the life of the captain.

They point to how prior to the recovery of Captain Phillips, "the Navy had tried a poking approach by sending a commando-boat towards the lifeboat, where the hostage and his captors were holding out, in order to see how quick they would get some response-fire".

History of Retaliation

Some writers, like Rowan Wolf, believe we have copious human history to show us that mass retaliation does not work.

Wolf writes, "What they do is to create more people to 'join the cause' to engage in more indiscriminate attacks, which face harsher and more wide spread retaliation. Hence, virtually all societies embrace the rule of law to control the destructive nature of mass revenge. When a crime has been committed, those who are the perpetrators are sought out and brought to trial. The evidence is presented and the penalty for those deemed guilty meted out."

Wolf continues, "In the United States, this embracing of mass retaliation was not born under the Bush administration. It was just legitimated and nurtured under that administration. Do we have a situation of a wild fire that now burns hotly in the breasts of many Americans [and French and Somalis]? Has a self-righteous blood lust become an acceptable response? Are the rash of seemingly indiscriminate murders around the countries a manifestation of this same illness? I fear they are, and I am both saddened and horrified by what we might become."

The further escalation and repercussions according to EcoTerra, can already be observed in Somalia: Most pirate gangs have taken at least some or the majority of the vessel's crew-members off the ships and hold them now in hideouts on land - away from the relative comfort on the vessels and under the same horrible conditions the local people have to survive.

EcoTerra, however, vows to continue to stand in harms way - against all odds and against all aggressors.

They say that what the strategists of the FBI negotiation team simply did not understand was that in order for the elders to hand over the captain without any ransom, "they would have had to bring back the young pirate fellows to their parents, otherwise they would have no mandate from them to act and would come home empty-handed."

Without the proposed agreement the elders' hands were essentially tied. Due to pressures in Somalia, giving the captain together with the boys to the Americans would have been a suicide mission for the elders themselves and it would have been sure death for them back home on land.

The elders apparently didn't even have the right to hand over Somali nationals to a foreign nation, since that is extradition, which only the government could do.

"Still the elders tried by various means and lines of remote communication to talk some sense into the pirate boys," EcoTerra said.

Reportedly, it was the commander of USS Bainbridge, Lieutenant Commander David Fowler, who gave the order to take the pirates down. Apparently there was an AK pointed at tied-up Philips and the commander authorized snipers to take their shots. It was a split section decision.

They had standing authority from the U.S. President to take action in the case of an imminent threat to the hostage’s life. The SEAL snipers were on Bainbridge about 20 meters or so from the life boat and sea conditions were ‘deteriorating’.

Harardheere, Somalia resident Hassan Jimale told Reuters this morning: "We woke with loud sounds of helicopters flying over Haradheere and we could see the legs and faces of white soldiers as the helicopter flew low. Maybe they are monitoring the sea or pirates planning to reinforce those on the lifeboat."

Pirates Vow Revenge

Somali pirates quickly vowed retaliation after the pirates were killed.

"Every country will be treated the way it treats us," said Abdullahi Lami, one of the pirates holding a Greek ship anchored in the pirate den of Gaan, a central Somali town.

"In the future, America will be the one mourning and crying," he told The Associated Press by telephone. "We will retaliate for the killings of our men."

EcoTerra says he gave no details and it was not clear in what way the pirates could retaliate, though some fear they could take their revenge on the hundreds of other foreign nationals they hold on seized ships, AP reported. "The Somali government wanted the drama to end in a peaceful way, but anyone who is involved in this latest case had the choice to use violence or other means," Abdulkhadir Walayo, the Somali prime minister's spokesman, told The Associated Press.

Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said the American operation "could escalate violence in this part of the world, no question about it."

Jamac Habeb, a 30-year-old self-proclaimed pirate, told The Associated Press that the three pirates' deaths were "a painful experience." Speaking from the pirate hub, Eyl, he added: "this will be a good lesson for us." "From now on, if we capture foreign ships and their respective countries try to attack us, we will kill them," Habeb said. "Now they became our number one enemy," he said of U.S. forces.

Another illusive pirate leader, who calls himself Mr. Hussein, lives in the city of Eyl in Puntland. He told Horseed Media he was unhappy to hear the deaths of his friends killed by US and French navy forces. Hussein stated that he will avenge his slain friends, promising to hijack more western ships. “….we will continue and will never stop…. I promise to avenge my fallen friends, they will pay for what they did…..” said the pirate king.

Hussein who usually uses different aliases told a Horseed Media reporter in Garowe, the capital of Puntland, that his group will change their tactics of engaging the ships that they hijack. He did not elaborate on, what their new tactic would be. The threats from one of the biggest pirate groups in Somalia came just hours after the US navy rescued an American Captain, killing 3 Somali pirates. Hussein told the local media that his group will not stop their piracy activities, and he promised more hijackings in the near future.

EcoTerra says that so far, it had been completely ruled out for Somali pirates to harm captive foreign crews and there is only one isolated case several years ago known, whereby a crew member of a Taiwanese fishing boat hijacked for six months was killed by pirates.

"Somali pirates until today were proud to have a humanitarian code of conduct and punished their own for any violation. Many analysts as well as humanitarian groups involved in mediation efforts fear that it will be extremely difficult now to appeal to pirates to respect human live and the dignity of innocent seafarers or to gain access if sailors fall ill."

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor.
Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 in Afghanistan with Oregon troops. Tim recently returned from Iraq where he covered the war there while embedded with an Oregon Guard aviation unit. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators.
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Alberto Vazquez April 16, 2009 1:50 pm (Pacific time)

The problem of Somalia not only fixes up with military operations. It´s necessary to take actions orientated to the stabilization of the country. I recommend Regards

Glen April 15, 2009 6:32 am (Pacific time)

At the beginning of the 19th century (probably before and after as well) pirates were hung immediately after capture without trial. Also one of the inventions which turned the tide against pirates was the steam engine. There's an interesting account of a British steam boat chasing pirates as they sought to escape into a river. The Brits just followed the oarsmen in their steamboat, waited for the pirates to collapse with fatigue and sunk them with a single cannon ball.

Scott April 14, 2009 8:42 am (Pacific time)

I guess the American Public just doesn't know what's good for them, huh Tim???? coddling the aggressors hasn't even been in keeping with the American spirit. "Still, there will be major fallout from this and the best way to resolve the situation is one that would not have sat well with the American public."

CJ April 14, 2009 7:30 am (Pacific time)

Humanitarian code? What an illogical viewpoint. Perform acts of armed terror and piracy on the high seas but expect to be treated with respect and honor. Honor and respect are earned not demanded. The pirate's actions warranted a swift and equivalent blow...and IMHO all free nations must keep the pressure on these criminals or we can expect more violence and deaths of unarmed merchant marines. On another note, the owners of these ships need to step up and provide adequate funding and protection for the crew and cargo.

qui vivi April 13, 2009 9:18 pm (Pacific time)

Why do Somalians go to sea in small boats with hand guns galore? Why not create a cordon sanitaire to 100 Mi off the coast, and let all who go beyond it take their chances. Shipping lanes s/b well out to sea leaving room for interdiction in an area patrolled by armed planes of all nations to keep the cost down. Ideas get results, not condemnations

Anonymous April 13, 2009 6:52 pm (Pacific time)

uh oh....Jimmy is asking questions.. he must be a terrorist. This entire situation goes much deeper. Location, location, location.. Since the U.S. is failing miserably in Iraq and Afghanistan, just start another war to take our minds off of it. same ol, same ol.. been there, bought the t-shirt. This is getting so old, I can literally tell you what they are going to do next.

gail April 13, 2009 6:50 pm (Pacific time)

Read the article:You are being lied to about pirates on commondreams.org

Jimmy April 13, 2009 5:41 pm (Pacific time)

There is something fishy about this whole thing. First, almost NO ships on the high seas are American flagged, it is prohibitively expensive compared to the many other countries out there. Second, why were the US warships that close to the area? The ship was chartered to deliver humanitarian aid by who? This whole thing looks like it was staged! The question I can't figure out is who? Obama is trying to mend years of Islam bashing by Bush and company. The US military-industrial complex has nothing more to gain with their profits from our two current wars lining their coffers. Rest assured, those responsible for orchistrating the murder of these three criminals - yes Tim, criminals, will never be known.

Lawrence Skarin April 13, 2009 1:01 pm (Pacific time)

Boy -- this is difficult. There apparently 200 other hostages. A negotiating position might be release them, and we won't wipe your villages off the earth. That's the stick. The carrot might be to get the young pirates an ability to make a living. Although I believe the Navy did what was necessary, I am not happy about the long term prospects.

Anonymous April 13, 2009 12:18 pm (Pacific time)

What a bright move on their part. Vowing revenge. Now our vessels will be highly protected and armed. Americans will take what they say seriously and take any and all precautions to prevent another incident like this. They asked for it, what did they expect threatening the life of an American?

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