Monday, January 18, 2010

Somali pirate ransom squabble

Criminals falling out over the apportioning of ill gotten gains is often seen in movies. It also happens in real life:

Rival Somali pirate gangs fired shots at each other on Sunday in a dispute over how to split any ransom for a hijacked Greek-flagged oil tanker with two million barrels of crude oil aboard.

Pirates from the semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland, who seized the Maran Centaurus in November, say they do not want to a share the spoils with pirate gangs in the pirate haven of Haradheere, where the vessel is moored.

But the tanker and its 28 hostages are now under the control of gunmen from Haradheere. The pirates from Puntland, aboard speedboats nearby, are threatening to set fire to the tanker if they miss out on any payment.

"We have risked our lives in hijacking the ship. These Haradheere men cannot deprive us of our rights," a pirate called Aden said.

"If need be, we shall start a fire as soon as the ransom is about to arrive."

Pirates have rights. Who knew?

Ransoms are usually divided between the hijackers - with bigger shares going to those who first boarded the vessel - people who have invested in the pirate ventures, those who guard moored ships and local communities onshore.

There is even a small pirate "stock exchange" in Haradheere where a Somalis can contribute money or weapons to the sea gangs in return for a dividend when ransoms are paid. In Puntland, by contrast, the authorities have pledged to crack down on piracy.

"The argument started after men from Puntland who hijacked the ship refused a ransom share for Haradheere pirates. Now hundreds of well-armed and angry pirates have gone onto the ship," pirate Hassan said.

Angry pirates? That can't be good. Let's hope these thugs don't totally lose their cool and do something stupid like firing an RPG into two millions barrels of crude. Get back on task and start killing your rivals.




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