Pirate State: Inside Somalia's Terrorism at Sea

Pirate State: Inside Somalia's Terrorism at Sea

by Peter Eichstaedt
     
 

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In 2009, the United States was hit broadside by Somali pirates who attempted to capture the U.S. flag ship Maersk Alabama. Suddenly, the pirates were no longer a distant menace. They had thrust themselves onto the American stage.

            Are the Somali pirates a legion of desperate fisherman

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Overview

In 2009, the United States was hit broadside by Somali pirates who attempted to capture the U.S. flag ship Maersk Alabama. Suddenly, the pirates were no longer a distant menace. They had thrust themselves onto the American stage.

            Are the Somali pirates a legion of desperate fisherman attacking cargo ships and ocean cruisers to reclaim their waters? Or is piracy connected to crime networks and the madness that grips Somalia? What threats do pirates pose to international security?

            To answer these questions, Peter Eichstaedt crisscrosses East Africa, meeting with pirates both in and out of prisons, talking with them about their lives, tactics, and motives. Ultimately, he comes face-to-face with a former fighter with Somalia’s brutal Islamic al-Shabaab militia. He discovers that piracy is a symptom of a much deeper problem: Somalia itself.

            Pirate State explores the links between the pirates, global financiers, and extremists who control southern Somalia and whose influence extends across the Gulf of Aden into Yemen and connects to extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Somali pirates are desperate and dangerous men who will do just about anything for money, and Pirate State argues that turning a blind eye to piracy and the problems of Somalia is inviting a disaster of horrific proportions.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Veteran journalist Eichstaedt's (First Kill Your Family) compelling book, based on his extended African visits, portrays a country in chaos, torn about by tribal fighting, corruption, and the violence of desperate people fighting for survival. Beginning with the dramatic re-telling of Maersk Alabama's capture by a small group of pirates and its eighteen year old leader, Eichstaedt then discusses the tiered payment system for the pirates and the countless individuals vying for the million dollar ransoms. Although piracy began in response to the usurpation of Somalia's fishing waters by larger foreign vessels, it quickly became a money-making operation generating a "total ransom purse " of $82 million in 2009. We see interviews with the Somali refugees who fled from a camp in Kenya, and we see the devastating effects of piracy on ordinary citizens. The book includes an analysis of the UN efforts to end piracy, the hijacking of humanitarian food supplies, and even the expansion of criminal networks into other countries. Eichstaedt recognizes that Somalia's pervasive poverty and illiteracy pose major obstacles to change. His even-handed polished style, and impressive documentation let the horrors and ramifications of piracy speak for themselves. The only quibble is that an additional map of Africa is sorely needed.
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From the Publisher

"Clear, expert reporting on a region of which many Americans may be unaware."  —Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Veteran journalist Eichstaedt (First Kill Your Family: Child Soldiers of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army, 2009, etc.) explores the murky waters of Somali piracy.

In the seas around the Horn of Africa, which form the coast of troubled and fractured Somalia, pirates attack ships on a near-daily basis, and often successfully hold craft and crew for expensive ransoms. Who are these pirates and what are their motivations? Eichstaedt traveled to East Africa in search of answers, and what he discovered depended on who he talked to. The simplest answer may be that "[i]n a deeply divided, impoverished, and lawless land, the lure of piracy was virtually irresistible." Decades of civil war robbed young male Somalis of hope and work. Under such circumstances, attacking a giant tanker in a small skiff made sense, and some suggested that piracy had evolved "into a sophisticated and well-organized industry." Piracy on this scale, writes the author, must have clandestine backers, funding from other African and Islamist states that travels in and out of Somalia through the secretive global hawala system of money transfers. Most ominous may be the ties between pirate groups and the radical Islamist militia,al-Shabaab, which now controls southern Somalia. Ransom money may be used to purchase weapons for the group, and pirates may be engaged in gun-running for them. If so, writes Eichstaedt, the stakes are higher, asal-Shabaabbecomes both a regional danger—especially to neighboring Kenya, which houses a refugee camp with 300,000 Somalis—and a global threat. The author admits that much remains unclear, but he returns often to the theme of piracy as an outcome of poverty and lawlessness. These conditions are not inevitable, and he concludes with precise recommendations for how the international community might end piracy and rebuild Somalia.

Clear, expert reporting on a region of which many Americans may be unaware.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781569763117
Publisher:
Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
10/01/2010
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

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