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The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World Paperback – 21 Aug 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 306 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; Reprint edition (21 Aug. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307476561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307476562
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 508,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Nico on 3 Dec. 2014
Format: Paperback
You have to admire the courage and initiative of the author to head off to Puntland to investigate the piracy issue firsthand. The book is extremely creditable in the sense that it very much shatters the Western media myth o the gangster rap lifestyle of the pirates It also raises some interesting points regarding the collapse of the Somali State and ongoing civil war, illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste in Somalia waters as drivers in the upsurge of piracy. Having read the book I feel better informed on some aspects of Somali piracy.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 45 reviews
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining and informative 11 Aug. 2011
By kevinw9 - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Jay Bahadur's "The Pirates of Somalia" is a incredible work of non-fiction. There are actually two stories told in this book. The first is a fascinating look into the history of what may be the most failed of "failed states" on the planet and the piracy scourge that has developed on its shores. Understanding piracy must be understood within the context of the country as a whole and Bahadur does a great job of explaining this. The inside look into pirate gangs, pirate leaders, hostages, politicians and others provides a viewpoint not available elsewhere. But the second story, and equally intriguing, is about a Canadian rookie journalist flying to Somalia on a whim, when no other reporter would do so, with a half-baked plan to embed himself with marine kidnappers for a few months - not something you hear about often.

Kudos to Bahadur for a beautifully written, well researched book. Enjoyed every page.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
A Daring Book 11 Aug. 2011
By Todd Thompson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Article first published as Book Review: The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World by Jay Bahadur on Blogcritics.

Far from being a romanticized history, The Pirates of Somalia by Jay Bahadur is a new (July, 2011) and important book about the pirates themselves, giving readers a full-color view of their origin, their clannish culture, and their motives.

Bahadur explains through his bold interviews with financiers and respected leaders that the piracy we currently see in Somalia is a result of an evolutionary process.

Early on, in the mid 1990's, in absence of a coast guard, Somali fishermen vigilantes, determined to protect their livelihood, began seizing the assets of small commercial fishing boats, in essence levying on them a tax of sorts for the offender's intrusion into their national waters.

By the mid-2000's, as Bahadur explains, these same operations became big businesses. No longer a defensive measure alone pirating became profitable and drew attention from other sectors of Somali culture.

In the "third wave" opportunism matured, attracting among others "disaffected youth from the large inland nomad population." This group, while echoing the "worn-out mantra" of the legacy they inherited, has lost the "brooding introspection" possessed by the older fishermen vigilantes who chose the route of piracy as a means of forcing justice in absence of a government authority. It is this third wave that has extended their reach into the high seas targeting large commercial trade ships for multi-million dollar ransoms.

In the conclusion of his book, Bahadur proposes actions which the international community might take to offer a "pragmatic mitigation" of piracy, a term he uses instead of "elimination." Among them are measures of prevention, enforcement, and intelligence. It is a problem, he says, that must be solved on land as well as on the sea.

The Pirates of Somalia is a daring book which invites readers into a world that challenges both the romanticist as well as the view of the noncritical consumer of television news.

Read more: [...]
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Summary by A Brave Rookie Journalist 17 Sept. 2011
By Loyd E. Eskildson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Few places are more uninviting than Somalia, a lawless 'failed state' gripped by the worst drought in 60 years. Jay Bahadur, a young Canadian, quit his job writing market-research reports and flew to the center of piracy in northeastern Somalia to pursue his dream of being a journalist. Wisely he had previously arranged for a local sponsor (Mahamad Farole, son of the new president of Puntland, a Somalian state) to both provide safeguarding and introductions to local pirates - otherwise his story, at best, would have simply been one of being kidnapped and held for ransom. Bahadur further ingratiated himself to the locals by adopting some of their customs - most notably the chewing of 'khat,' a mild cocaine-like leaf grown in Africa and selling for about $20/kilo, roughly a day's supply.

Khat produces mild euphoria, and a belief that one is invincible and superhuman. Downsides include tooth decay, decreased liver function, and depression after withdrawal. The leaves' ability to create a narcotic effect is time limited - thus fresh supplies are flown in daily from Kenya and Ethiopia.

Local pirates told Bahadur that their forays started in the mid-1990s when Chinese, Taiwanese, and Korean fishing trawlers began using steel-pronged drag fishing nets to wipe out their lobsters and their breeding grounds. The first piracy raids were retaliatory - capturing foreign fishing vessels, keeping the catch, and ransoming the crew. However, by 1997 the foreign fishing fleets began obtaining protection contracts with local warlords who provided armed guards and anti-aircraft guns. So the early pirates then began pursuing commercial cargo ships, identifiable by the cranes on their decks and much slower speeds (supertankers ran at about 10 mph) vs. tourist ships.

From initially spotting their prey to capture took at most 30 minutes, primarily relying on hooked rope ladders and the threat of AK-47s. Crews rarely fought back, partly because of their volatile cargoes, and also because owners did not want to escalate situations over a relatively small ransom loss. (Armed guards would cost about $40,000/trip.) Only about 20-30% of piracy attempts succeeded, thanks to most prey being too fast or taking evasive action, and foreign naval intervention. (Only about 15% of pirate attacks are stopped by foreign naval forces.) The odds of any ship being seized in the Gulf of Aden were only about 0.17% in 2008.

ailing around the Cape of Good Hope is an alternative, but would cost $3.5 million/year in extra fuel and reduce the number of trips made. Employing extra men for lookouts would help (take earlier evasive action), but owners generally don't - crews have been reduced from about 25 in the 1970s to 11-15 today. Another defense is for the crew to barricade themselves in the engine room, able to shut off the engines and remain out of the line of fire if international forces intervened.

Ransom payoffs were often parachuted onto or near the decks of the seized ships. Half went to the attackers, one-third to investors, and the rest to guards, translators, and local suppliers of food and water. Many of the pirates had previously been trained by local governments in a failed efforts to form a coast guard. They failed because of the high costs of fuel and manpower. (Per the author, the UAE is now attempting to restart these efforts and fund them on a sustained basis.) Somalian troops are of little use fighting the pirates because they are usually stationed far inland - aggressive pursuit of the pirates risks creating civil war. Islamic clerics strongly oppose piracy, and anything bought with the proceeds is labeled as 'damned.' Prisoners in Somalia are often released early, thanks to bribes and the need to make room for more serious offenders.

Somali pirate attacks occur in an area approximately two-thirds the size of the U.S., mostly in shipping lanes. There are an estimated 1,500-2,000 pirates, grouped in packs of 6 - 12. The opposing international naval coalition is comprised of 25 - 40 vessels costing $1-1.5 billion/year, vs. hijacking losses of about $90 million. The number of seized ships has meanwhile risen from 49 in 2008, to 68 in 2009, and 74 in 2010; 2011 looks like it will set a new record. Simultaneously, rewards have grown from an average $1.35 million in 2008, to $2.25 million in 2009, and $3.5 million in 2010. The record ransom was $9.5 million for a South Korean oil tanker. (Earlier this year Korean commandos retook another tanker, killing 8 pirates.) At least 64 pirates have been killed between 8/08 - 5/10 by coalition forces.

Bahadur ends with recommendations on reducing piracy - improved policing in Somalia, more prison space, and stopping outsiders from taking the area's fish and lobsters.

It's a good bet that we'll be reading more from Bahadur, continuing in his journalism career.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Unique perspective on Somali piracy 13 Sept. 2011
By Joel R. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The word "pirates" evokes images of bearded men, eye patches, parrots, and 18th century sailing vessels. Nothing could be further from the truth of the AK-47 toting pirates operating today in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Jay Bahadur offers an unprecedented perspective on the modern pirate organizations operating out of the less governed regions of Somalia. Once his patience waiting for proper introduction to a Somalia "pirate" paid off, Bahadur was able to learn from an insider the whys and hows piracy came to be.

Bahadur provides the reader with a primer on the history of piracy in the waters surrounding Somalia. While he recognizes his indebtedness to the information in Stig Jarle Hansen's "Piracy in the Greater Gulf of Aden", Bahadur provides a much richer (and readable) version of events. With that being said, Bahadur does not objectively examine the Somalia pirate's motivation for piracy. Universally, the pirates claim illegal fishing as the reason for turning to piracy. However, the first recorded attacks in 1991 were against cargo ships sailing into Mogadishu - it's hard to support the statement that illegal fishing was the initial reason, but the first targets were commercial cargo vessels whose cargo was stolen and resold on the black market. Interestingly, he identifies that the "illegal fishing" excuse is a myth in the epilogue of the book - not in the section entitled "myths".

The author does an outstanding job of covering the history of Somali and International efforts to establish a coast guard to combat piracy in the waters. Bahadur discusses the concepts of licensing fishing vessels (and security forces), and how these efforts eventually failed. Subsequently, this left a sizable number of unemployed men trained in boat operations and paramilitary training - the perfect recruiting pool for piracy operations.

For readers interested in the economics of the operations, the author looks at how the operations are funded. In essence, there are three groups of people. The venture capitalists provide the boat, weapons, and supplies for the operation. The second group, the assault team, is responsible for securing the victim. The third group are the holders, who guard the ship after the crew has been subdued. Bahadur offers the pirates perspective on how each of these groups function, and how the shares are distributed once the ransom has been paid.

Just as interesting, Bahadur runs the numbers from the perspectives from the victim's and insurer's perspective. In debunking some of the myths surrounding Somali piracy, the numbers show that it's really not as dangerous as the media makes it out to be.

Having spent six months on the business end of supporting combat operations against the pirates, I agree with his predictions on the growth of piracy in the region. However, I do not agree two of his recommendations. Politically, it is more palatable for voters to fund combat operations against pirates than it is to pay employees in another nation. The other three recommendations are outstanding and do deserve more consideration.

Overall, I'm very impressed with the book. I highly recommend this book for readers looking to discover more about Somali piracy.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Great writing with an outstanding subject matter 21 Aug. 2011
By Ron Walsh - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I saw the author plugging the book on the Daily Show, and having studied the pirates and their operations while serving as an Intelligence Specialist in the Marine Corps, I can tell you that this is a great book that gives insight to the how's and why's the pirates do what they do.
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