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Somalia’s Piracy Compromises Its Neighbors

7:28 AM, Aug 22, 2012 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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More important in Pines’s roster, however, is his suggestion to “allow ships to better protect themselves.” He describes deterrent policies that include “on-board security systems by installing fire hoses, electric fences, barbed wire, bright lights, alarm systems, tracking devices, and even devices that emit ear-splitting pulses towards a targeted area . . . placing weapons aboard ships or hir[ing] private security companies to emplace armed personnel on vessels.” He recalls the 2009 seizure by Somali pirates of the U.S.-registered container ship Maersk Alabama, operating between Yemen and Somalia.

In that incident, four pirates took the ship’s captain hostage in a lifeboat after the vessel’s engines were disabled and the rest of the crew sheltered in safe rooms below decks. Pines observes, “the attack marked the first time that an American merchant vessel had been boarded by pirates since the early 1800s.” It ended when the destroyer USS Bainbridge, which had been following the lifeboat, employed snipers from Navy Seal Team Six (the same unit that later eliminated Osama bin Laden), who efficiently killed three of the pirates, with one shot each. The fourth pirate, a Somali named Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse, had surrendered previously and asked for medical treatment. Muse was tried in the U.S. and sentenced to 33 years and nine months in prison. The Maersk Alabama has been harassed several times since, and on each occasion pirates have been repelled by gunfire and noise weapons.

Somali Islamist terrorism, including piracy, should be opposed forcefully, on land, sea, and in the air. Arming merchant ships for their defense is one tool; heavier sanctions against states like Eritrea that assist terrorists on the pretext of their national, non-ideological interests, is another.

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