Somali Pirate Threat Intensifies

The pirates are young, untrained, and armed to the teeth. Now they are also angry.

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

My sister the sailor just sent me a sad and disturbing article from Sail World magazine (I'm guessing that's probably not on your usual reading list). First, the sad comment from French Defense Minister Herve Morin that Florent Lemacon, father of a 3-year-old, who was killed when his family was taken hostage by Somali pirates, may have been killed by friendly fire from the French rescue team:

Mr Morin said on Saturday that officials 'cannot rule out' that Mr Lemacon was killed by French fire, something that most keen observers could have guessed easily. Somali pirates have no history of harming their hostages, in fact treating them very well as the source of their livelihood. It is much more likely that a French bullet, fired at a distance, would have been what ended Florent Lemacon's life so tragically.

Tragic, not only because of the way that he died, but also that it was his desire to escape from the consumer led society, which also lures the pirates that captured him, to a better more essential life.

In the French raid to save the Lemacon family, two pirates were killed and three more were captured. Here's the disturbing comment, from a pirate calling in on a satellite phone:

In a statement that does not bode well for French and American cruising sailors, Somali pirates are threatening revenge against the French and, quoting the recent killing of more pirates during the freeing of the USA flagged Alabama, all citizens of the USA.

'The French and the Americans will regret starting this killing. We do not kill, but take only ransom. We shall do something to anyone we see as French or American from now,' Hussein, a pirate, told Reuters by satellite phone.

Is anyone surprised the problem is getting worse? Since Tuesday of this week, according to the Associated Press, Somali pirates have seized four more ships with 60 hostages aboard, and are asking millions in ransom money. It sounds like they'll probably get it—the government of Kenya estimates the pirates' 2008 take was $150 million. I guess that's how they afford the satellite phones.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the pirates who attacked the Alabama were all between 17 and 19 years old. "Untrained teenagers with heavy weapons," Gates said in a speech at the Marine Corps War College. "Everybody in the room knows the consequences of that."

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  • Mary Kate Cary

    Mary Kate Cary is a former White House speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush. She currently writes speeches for political and business leaders, and is a contributing editor for U.S. News & World Report.

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