Providing a timely and never-before-seen perspective on the ever-increasing menace of Somali pirates, this account shows how the cargo ship and oil tanker hijackings and ransoms in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean have turned one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes into one of the most dangerous. By way of one-on-one interviews with pirates, their associates, their victims, and those who police them, the book reveals piracy’s origins, tactics, and increasing links to terrorists in Somalia, East Africa, and the Middle East, including Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. These sources point to a scenario in which Somali pirates might not just be out for themselves; they may be a part of a larger, more sinister infrastructure of global financiers and Islamic extremists that—if not dealt with soon—could greatly destabilize the region and perhaps threaten United States national security.
Veteran journalist Eichstaedt's (First Kill Your Family) compelling book, based on his extended African visits, portrays a country in chaos, torn about by tribal fighting, corruption, and the violence of desperate people fighting for survival. Beginning with the dramatic re-telling of Maersk Alabama's capture by a small group of pirates and its eighteen year old leader, Eichstaedt then discusses the tiered payment system for the pirates and the countless individuals vying for the million dollar ransoms. Although piracy began in response to the usurpation of Somalia's fishing waters by larger foreign vessels, it quickly became a money-making operation generating a "total ransom purse " of $82 million in 2009. We see interviews with the Somali refugees who fled from a camp in Kenya, and we see the devastating effects of piracy on ordinary citizens. The book includes an analysis of the UN efforts to end piracy, the hijacking of humanitarian food supplies, and even the expansion of criminal networks into other countries. Eichstaedt recognizes that Somalia's pervasive poverty and illiteracy pose major obstacles to change. His even-handed polished style, and impressive documentation let the horrors and ramifications of piracy speak for themselves. The only quibble is that an additional map of Africa is sorely needed.