Americans fascinated by pirate story

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via The Insider

NEW YORK (AP) — We’re going through a crippling recession. The CIA is under fire over its interrogation techniques. And U.S. policy toward Cuba may be about to change. But the most-followed news story of late? A tale of pirates on the high seas.

Some who study pop culture suspect that’s at least partly a reflection of America’s longtime fascination with scurvy buccaneers and swashbuckling cutthroats.

“Pirates! It’s not as good as aliens, but close,” says Marty Kaplan, professor at the Norman Lear Center of the University of Southern California, which studies the impact of entertainment on society.

“Captain Hook, Treasure Island, the Disney ride, Blackbeard,” Kaplan muses. “If we thought of them or talked about them as punks, thugs, thieves or kidnappers, they wouldn’t stir our blood or promise a good yarn.”

Asked which story they followed more closely last week than any other, 34 percent of Americans surveyed named the Somali pirate saga, in which sea captain Richard Phillips was rescued by U.S. Navy snipers after five days held hostage in a lifeboat. The economy came in second at 27 percent, according to the Pew Research Center for People & The Press.

In fact, only two stories this year have surpassed the economy in any week: The inauguration of Barack Obama, and the dramatic ditching of that US Airways jet in the Hudson River by its cool-headed pilot, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.

What’s the reason behind the pirate fascination? The poll didn’t ask, but the story clearly shares a crucial element with the US Airways saga: what’s been perceived as quick-thinking heroism from men thrown into unexpected and treacherous circumstances. Continue reading

Brazen Pirates Defiantly Jack 4 More Ships, Fire on Fifth

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via Daily Mail

Somali pirates have brazenly hijacked four more ships in the Gulf of Aden over the last 24 hours and opened fire on a fifth.

The pirates captured two trawlers yesterday, a cargo ship named the M.V. Irene overnight, and a second cargo ship named the M.V. Seahorse today.gulf_of_aden

This afternoon a Nato official said a band of pirates had opened fire on a fifth cargo ship – but it managed to escape.

A maritime security contractor, speaking on condition of anonymity because it is a sensitive security issue, said the ship put out a distress signal ‘to say they had a suspicious vessel approaching. That rapidly turned into an attack and then a hijacking.’

‘They tried to call in support on the emergency channels, but they never got any response,’ the contractor said.

Yesterday, Somali pirates also seized two Egyptian fishing boats in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia’s northern coast, according to Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, which said there were 18 to 24 Egyptians onboard at the time.

Choong said pirate attacks this year had risen to 77, with 18 of those ships hijacked and 16 vessels with 285 crew still remaining in pirates’ hands. Each boat carries the potential of million-dollar ransom. Continue reading

U.S. Sea Captain Freed In Swift Firefight

via NPR

NPR.org, April 12, 2009 · An American ship captain was freed unharmed Sunday in a swift firefight that killed three of the four Somali pirates who had been holding him for days in a lifeboat off the coast of Africa, the ship’s owner said.US Piracy

A senior U.S. intelligence official said a pirate who had been involved in negotiations to free Capt. Richard Phillips but who was not on the lifeboat was in custody.

Phillips, 53, of Underhill, Vermont, was safely transported to a Navy warship nearby.

Maersk Line Limited President and CEO John Reinhart said in a news release that the U.S. government informed the company around 1:30 p.m. EDT Sunday that Phillips had been rescued. Reinhart said the company called Phillips’ wife, Andrea, to tell her the news.

The U.S. official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. A Pentagon spokesman had no immediate comment.

When Phillips’ crew heard the news aboard their ship in the port of Mombasa, they placed an American flag over the rail of the top of the Maersk Alabama and whistled and pumped their fists in the air. Crew fired a bright red flare into the sky from the ship.

A government official and others in Somalia with knowledge of the situation had reported hours earlier that negotiations for Phillips’ release had broken down. Continue reading

New World Order Shapes Up Off Somalia

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via Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) – The Somali pirates who released a Saudi supertanker got a $3 million reward, according to their associates. Good money in one of the world’s poorest and most war-blighted corners.

But the waters off Somalia are getting ever more crowded with foreign ships trying to stop the pirates. As well as potentially making life more difficult for the hijackers, it has become a real illustration of the much talked about global power shift from West to East in terms of military might as well as economic strength.

This raises a question as to whether this will lead to close cooperation, rivalry or something altogether more unpredictable.

This week the United States said it planned to launch a specific anti-piracy force, an offshoot of a coalition naval force already in the region since the start of the U.S. ‘War on Terror’ in Afghanistan in 2001.

It wasn’t clear just what this would mean in practical terms since U.S. ships were already part of the forces trying to stop the modern day buccaneers, equipped with speedboats and rocket-propelled grenades. It was also unclear which countries would be joining the U.S.-led force rather than operating under their own mandates. Continue reading

$3 Million Ransom Paid to Somali ‘Pirates’

via Daily Mail

This is the dramatic moment a ransom of $3million was paid to Somali pirates to end the world’s biggest ship hijacking. pirates_1

The canister full of cash was parachuted onto the Sirius Star – observed by the U.S. Navy who provided these images – and the two-month ordeal of the 25 crew, including two Britons, was finally over.

However things went badly wrong for the pirates soon after the drop – they squabbled over how to split the money and then a wave washed off their getaway boat and drowned five of them.

The pirates originally wanted more than £16 million to release the boat and its £65 million load of oil. Eventually they accepted the offer of $3million (around £2million).

The apparent ransom payment is delivered via a parachuted container to pirates holding the Sirius Star

A close up of the parachuted ransom falling towards the Sirius Star

But as they made off they continued to row about the payout.

‘Two of them swam and survived. One is still missing.

The weather was so terrible that it blew the boat over, then sank it.

We got five dead bodies and we are still searching for the missing one. The waves were disastrous,’ said Farah Osman, an associate of the gang.

It is not known what happened to the money or those who survived. Continue reading

US Plan Calls for Hunting Pirates by Land and Air

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Can you say Black Hawk Down 2? Just like Bush had to redeem the embarrassment his daddy left behind in Iraq, I’m supposing the government is planning to line up Obama to avenge America’s humiliating defeat in Somalia via his first foray into Africa to round up some pirates i.e. the new terrorists.  After all they didn’t set up AFRICOM for safari hunts.

via Breitbart

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The U.S. is proposing to track down Somali pirates not only at sea, but on land and in Somalian air space with cooperation from the African country’s weak U.N.-backed government.

The United States on Wednesday circulated a draft United Nations Security Council resolution on the issue. It proposes that all nations and regional groups cooperating with Somalia’s government in the fight against piracy and armed robbery “may take all necessary measures ashore in Somalia.”

The proposal marks one of the Bush administration’s last major foreign policy initiatives.

If the U.S. military gets involved, it would mark a dramatic turnabout from the U.S. experience in Somalia in 1992-1993 that culminated in a deadly military clash in Mogadishu followed by a humiliating withdrawal of American forces.

Piracy off Somalia has intensified in recent months, with more attacks against a wider range of targets. There was an unsuccessful assault on a cruise ship in the Gulf of Aden, which links the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. In September, pirates seized a Ukrainian freighter loaded with 33 battle tanks and on Nov. 15 they seized a Saudi oil tanker carrying $100 million worth of crude.

About 100 attacks on ships have been reported off the Somali coast this year. Forty vessels have been hijacked, with 14 still remaining in the hands of pirates along with more than 250 crew members, according to maritime officials.

The U.S. resolution is to be presented at a session on Somalia Tuesday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Continue reading