Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Closing Time For The Somali Pirates

It has been awhile since we checked in with our old friends the Somali pirates. A big part of the reason was simply that 2012 was not a good year for piracy, with successful pirate raids dropping off sharply.  This turn in fortune seems to be the motivation for one of Somalia's most infamous pirates to call it quits.  The New York Times is reporting that Mohamed Abdi Hassan, better known by his nom de guerre “Big Mouth”, announced his retirement last week in a press conference broadcast on YouTube.
Big Mouth's retirement is a big deal in that he was thought to be the head of a notorious pirate network and was identified in a United Nations report last year as one of Somalia's most influential and most dangerous pirates.  But a host of factors are now working against the Somali pirates, including more effective naval patrols in the Indian Ocean, on-shore raids aimed at disrupting pirating operations ashore and the emergence of effective governments in the capital, Mogadishu, and in the semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland.  These factors have combined to reduce the pirate's haul down to a mere 13 captured vessels in 2012, making pirating a far more dangerous and far less lucrative business today than it was a couple of years ago.

Big Mouth seems to have been further enticed by the issuance of a passport by the new Somali government that allowed him to travel abroad to visit his family, according to the Times.  In his farewell press conference, Big Mouth claimed to have also influenced a number of his pirate brethren to give up their pirating ways as well.  But while piracy seems to be on the decline off the coast of Somalia, there is concern that the pirates could come back if international navies scale back their patrols, thinking that the pirate problem has passed; at the same time, the pirate problem may be shifting to the coast of West Africa, where pirate attacks are on the rise.
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