According to McClatchy Newspapers, the "pirates had asked the Americans to let them go if they released the captain, but the Americans would not agree to the conditions...Earlier in the day, Maersk reported the Navy had told the company Captain Phillips had been sighted earlier in the day, indicating he was not being restrained by his captors."
The Washington Post gives us the low down on this incredibly dangerous operation: "The U.S. military operation ended a tense, five-day standoff in which four pirates armed with pistols and AK-47s ultimately faced off with a small American armada in the Indian Ocean off Somalia's coast. Somali pirates who had pulled off the first seizure of an American crewman in recent memory were soon staring at the hulls of the USS Halyburton, a guided-missile frigate equipped with helicopters, and the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship with missile launchers, attack planes and a crew of 1,000, which had joined the Bainbridge. "
Those dastardly Somali "pirates were spotted pointing an AK-47 into the back of Captain Phillips." Given that their hostage had tried to escape, one would presume they would be pointing their guns at him, even if they were empty. I mean they weren't going to tell their hostage or the US Navy, they had run out of ammo now were they?
"The operation was a victory for the world's most powerful military", said NBC. Yep, the Shermans were desperate for a military victory -any one would do it appears! I mean, let's face it, the only wars they've won since 1945 (and they've been involved in more than any other country in the world), are Grenada and Panama... those other imperial superpowers in the Carribbean...
The WaPo gives us a tiny hint of the background on the Somali pirates, one sentence to be precise: "Fishermen complaining of widespread illegal fishing in their waters began by seizing trawlers as an act of defiance but soon found they had stumbled onto a lucrative business."
Johan Hari has a much fuller background in the Independent:
"In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.
Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.
Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Mr Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."
At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by overexploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."
This is the context in which the "pirates" have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a "tax" on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence"
No, this doesn't make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters – especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But in a telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali: "We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas."
Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our toxic waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We won't act on those crimes – the only sane solution to this problem – but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 per cent of the world's oil supply, we swiftly send in the gunboats.
The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know "what he meant by keeping possession of the sea." The pirate smiled, and responded: "What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor." Once again, our great imperial fleets sail – but who is the robber?"