Real pirates hold hostages for ransom

Somali pirates used small boats to hijack ships and to kidnap innocent people in exchange for money. (Nytimes.com)
Somali pirates used small boats to hijack ships and to kidnap innocent people in exchange for money. (Nytimes.com)

The world has a pirate problem, and this time it has nothing to do with Black Beard, Jack Sparrow, or Orlando Bloom. This maritime threat is real and is creating a lot of buzz on the world’s stage.

These pirates, known for their ruthlessness and connections to terrorist organizations, have kidnapped Paul and Rachel Chandler. The New York Times confirmed the two were in the hands of Somali pirates, on Oct. 27, through a source identifying him as Farah Abdi.

The Somali Pirates do not discriminate by nation, hijacking and attacking boats from the United States as well. On Nov. 30, The New York Times reported the pirates had hijacked and stolen an oil tanker loaded with $20 million in crude oil that was headed from Saudi Arabia to the United States.

In late October of this year, two retired citizens in their late-50s were sailing off the coast of Tanzania when Somali pirates hijacked their ship. The couple, known sailors, decided to sail around that area although aware of the dangers of piracy.

More than a month has passed since the day the Chandlers were kidnapped, and according to the BBC, the pirates have demanded $7 million over a phone call. The British government responded to the ransom through the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office by stating “The government will not make substantive concessions for hostage takers, including the payments of ransom.”

Their 38-foot yacht, Lynn Rival, was later found abandoned in the international waters. The Somali pirates are known for using small boats to capture these massive ships, containing cargo or potential hostages. The pirates brandish high-powered assault rifles, most likely funded by terrorist organizations, as The New York Times reports that most of the pirates are poor fishermen.

Recently, BBC’s channel 4 has received a video featuring the Chandlers held at gunpoint by their captors. Mr. Chandler is concerned in the video, stating that if the British government does not do something fast they will “sleepwalk to a tragic ending.”

Mrs. Chandler pleads with the government saying “we ask the government and the people of Britain and our family, to do whatever they can to enter into negotiations with these people to buy back our lives.”

The BBC reports that the Somali pirates have never killed any of the hostages they have taken, but they may be in talks to sell the couple to a terrorist group, Al-Shabaab.

The problem facing the British government is a large one due to the fact that innocent lives are on the line. The family of the Chandlers misses them deeply and “urges their release.” In a situation like this a government is tested and pushed to limits not usually seen in everyday happenings.

The United States took a similar stance in 2006, claiming to “not negotiate with terrorists.” If the British government does not act soon, they will have the chance to “not negotiate with terrorists” just as the United States had.

On the one hand, the British government is attempting to be strong-willed in its refusal to pay the cash ransom for the Chandlers. But in the recently released video, Mr. Chandler states that the pirates will not hesitate to kill him and his wife if their demands are not met within a week.

The Somali pirates’ ransom strategy has worked for them prior to this occasion. In early November, the Spanish government paid $3.3 million for the freedom of 36 hostages taken from a Spanish trawler on Oct. 2.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero responded to the cash payment by stating, “The government did what it had to do.”

Zapatero believed, “the important thing is that the sailors will be back with us. The first obligation of a country, of the government of a state, is to save the lives of its countrymen.”

This statement by Zapatero does not suggest that the British government’s first obligation is not the lives of their countrymen, but it seems that if they do not act fast, the lives of two will be lost. If the demands of the pirates are not met, there is a chance the pirates will kill the hostages.

The real question here is: what is a government to do? A hostage situation is one of the most difficult a nation has to deal with. Sometimes, governments can be stubborn in dealing with these types of atrocities and the lives of innocent people can be lost over money and diplomatic negotiations.

Either way this situation is one where the lives of innocent people are in jeopardy, and their governments have a chance to save their lives. Whether or not they do so, is up to them.

According to the International Maritime Bureau, in the past two months, 38 ships have been attacked and 10 hijacked. The world must look quickly to do something about this increasing threat in our international waters.

Sources: www.nytimes.com, www.foxnews.com, www.dailyfinance.com