They don't wear eye-patches or peg legs and you won't find any parrots perched on their shoulders, but they are no less pirates for that.Twenty-first century piracy Somali style is a far cry from the swashbuckling, sea dogs of old but, in recent months, they have captured both the headlines and the public's imagination. Their high seas hijackings have also forced the media to focus on Somalia, arguably the globe's most neglected tragedy.But who are these men and what drives them to carry out such audacious attacks?I set off to Puntland, the semi-autonomous region in Somalia's north-eastern corner, to find out.Puntland is one of the poorest parts of war-torn Somalia and it is home to most of Somalia's dreaded pirates.The pirate's ranks have been swollen by many of the region's youths - drawn by the potentially huge profits of one of Somalia's most successful, if unconventional, business enterprises.Faced with limited options and even less optimism for the country's future, the young pirates care little about the risks they will run at sea.In Garowe, the capital of Puntland, I met a well-known pirate; Abdirashid Ahmed - nicknamed Juqraafi or "geography" - still flush from a recent hijacking.
Abdirashid and his colleagues had just taken receipt of a ransom payment of $1.3m after capturing the Greek ship MV Saldanha in February.Smartly dressed and driving a Toyota four-wheel drive, he cut the perfect figure of prosperous young Somali. "It took us three months of negotiations with the boat's owner before we came to an agreement over the ransom money."We initially asked for $17m but compromised and accepted $1.3m when we realised it will take a long time to get more out of the shipping company," he tells me.However, it was desperation, not greed, he claims, that pushed him to throw in his lot with the pirates."We are driven by hunger, just look at our country and how destroyed it is. We are people with no hope and opportunities, that is what is forcing us into piracy," he says. Successful ventures like Juqraafi's have turned piracy in Somalia into a self-financing local industry. Pirate cells operate in well-organised groups, drawing in members of extended family networks...more..http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2009/06/2009614125245860630.html