As a former pirate-hunter and all-around-swashbuckler, I can’t let the recent rescue of two hostages from Somali pirates* go without comment. In contrast to my post about the rescue of that Iranian dhow, THIS rescue really is out of the ordinary. Land-side raids to rescue hostages have been few and far between in Somalia, due to both logistical and intelligence difficulties, so this event is definitely something worth noting.
I would be surprised, though, if this became a common occurrence – a huge percentage of the hostages are held on ships anchored off the coast, and raiding a ship is much, MUCH harder than raiding a camp on the beach. That said, BZ to the SEALs, pilots, etc. involved – two people are going home to their families because of you. To the nine kidnappers killed in the raid – “when you pull a tiger by the tail, you better have a plan for dealing with his teeth.”
Reporting on piracy in coast is often focused on the number of ships and amount of money involved. This raid should remind us, though, that the real issue is the hundreds of innocent mariners who are still in captivity – the naval forces patrolling off the coast of Somalia are for them, not for the bottom line of shipping companies. This report on a Georgian ship captain that had been held in captivity by pirates for 18 months is revealing:
“They treated us very mercilessly, extremely mercilessly,” he says. “Kept us chained together like dogs, for eight months. We had no food, no water, and no access to the toilet for 56 hours at a time. Some days were even worse. Once they brought in bottles of urine, poured it over us, then coated us with flour. They left us like that for 24 hours.”
So if anyone ever starts mouthing off about how the pirates are just a “Coast Guard” that is “protecting their fisheries” or some nonsense like that, tell it to Memed Zakaradze.
*: There’s some debate about whether the kidnappers of the American and Danish hostage were really “pirates” or not, since the kidnapping happened on land. I suspect that they were at least tied to the pirate gangs since the hostages were held on board a ship at one point, so I feel comfortable throwing them in to the same category.