25 Things You Didn’t Know About Somali Pirates

It’s true, Britney Spears songs are actually used to deter pirates off the coast of Somalia. Here are 25 things you didn’t know about Somali pirates.

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Piracy off the coast of Somalia started with fisherman defending their territory

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After the Somali government collapsed in 1991 other nations started fishing and dumping toxic waste in Somali waters

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The local fisherman would board the foreign vessels and demand a fee

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They called themselves the "Coast Guard" and their stated mission was to defend Somalia's territorial integrity until the formation of a new government

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These patrols eventually expanded their reach and their motives

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Piracy is now Somalia's biggest source of income bringing in nearly $200 million annually

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Most of the pirates are young and come from the war torn southern regions

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There are typically three categories of pirates

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The first is the fisherman. They are valuable for their seafaring skill and knowledge of the open waters

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The second is the ex-militiaman. They previously fought for local warlords and clans.

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The third is the technical expert who operates equipment such as GPS devices

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The closest Somali word for pirate literally translates as "ocean robber" but most of the pirates prefer a term translated as "saviors of the sea"

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With the use of motherships, the range of pirate skiffs has been extended well into the Indian Ocean

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Pirates generally access the ships via ladders that they bring with them.

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They will then typically use RPGs and small arms to intimidate the crew

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Harming the crew typically goes strongly against the pirate code so there have not been very many pirate related casualties in the last few decades

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The policy of not harming hostages also ensures that governments are less likely to step in and employ "do not negotiate" tactics

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The success of pirating has changed Somalia's economy. It's financial sector is surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly) well developed

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The operations are now very vast and intricate with an actual "stock exchange" existing where financiers can buy stock in upcoming raids

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There are numerous third parties benefiting from piracy as well. These include insurance providers and pirates who have set up operations to double as pirate negotiators

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Another interesting side effect is that formerly impoverished Somali and Kenyan fisherman are now able to make a living as fish populations return to normal after the departure of foreign fishing vessels

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Apparently Britney Spears songs have been used as a deterrent against pirates by warships in the region

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Several pirates have been prosecuted already, notably 6 were executed by a Yemeni court

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In contrast, those tried in Europe receive several years in prison and are then typically not sent back to Somalia because it is deemed as too dangerous.

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There are fears that this may ironically increase piracy as Somalian locals see a path to citizenship in the west

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