Then the haggling over the ransom money went on for two months. That tested and stretched the patience of everyone, including other pirate gangs watching from the sidelines. Finally, a ransom of US$5.5mil (RM18.4mil) was agreed and the “drop” was to be made last Sunday. Then rival pirates in two speedboats swooped, firing on the pirate hostage-takers.That rattled the pirates on the supertanker so much that they called the European Union (EU) anti-piracy naval force nearby for help. But who would want to protect pirates to ensure that they get their hands on the ransom? Apparently, the EU anti-piracy force would, and did so superbly. Nobody from the force would comment, so it was left to a Somali source to reveal what had happened.Two helicopters from the EU naval force arrived swiftly and hovered over the attacking pirates, without opening fire. Apparently that was enough to scare off the brigands without any of them shooting at the helicopters, thus they turned tail and scooted.The pirate hostage-takers were relieved and happy to receive the ransom as planned. They released the tanker with crew and cargo intact on Monday, and everyone was happy again except perhaps for the
In a siege situation, an armed group attacking another holding hostages and cargo for ransom creates a distraction that might be turned to advantage by rescuers and crime-fighters.
But that would be to assume that the rescuers and crime-fighters in the “anti-piracy” force on standby had been poised to act.Since the attackers were also pirates, their interest lay in the ransom rather than doing harm to the hostages. And it remains something of a foregone conclusion that the navies and special forces units in the area would overwhelm any motley crew of pirates, with or without their rocket-launchers.
More to the point perhaps, was there any attempt by any of the government forces to pursue the pirates with the ransom after the hostages had been freed? Has there ever been any attempt at pursuit so far, following all the pirate attacks all these years?From all available indications, post-ransom action has been limited to the pirates themselves. After last Sunday’s “take”, the victorious pirates later in the week met with opposition from other pirates still after their booty when they landed.Despite the involvement of several countries’ naval forces and security agencies off Somali waters, piracy continues to thrive and grow. That some pirates are now attacking other pirates is no consolation for law enforcement.The greater strategic concern by the world’s governments may be over Islamist militancy in Somalia, but it is no substitute for appropriate concern and action over piracy offshore. Most pirates may operate differently from militants, but nobody can say they may not at some point collaborate, join forces or share resources.At stake is more than corporate money, although some reports have put the week’s ransom amount as high as US$7mil (RM23.3mil) in two separate “deliveries”. The earlier figure of US$5.5mil was already a record sum for Somali piracy.At issue are also personal and public safety, national security, rising insurance premiums and the international reputation of a nation’s military forces. The latter’s response so far has only been to encourage more of the same.Given the size of the takings, the relatively little time and effort spent, the ease of the getaway and the record of non-capture, the booming piracy trade is paying much better than mere fishing or the mercenary business in Somalia. Other troubled nations might just take notice.
Terrorists of the seas