Somalia, on the tip of the Horn of Africa, has been inhabited as far back as 9,000 BC. Its history is as rich as the country is old. Caught up in a decades-long civil war, Somalia, along with Iraq and Afghanistan, has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Getting there from North America is a forty-five-hour, five-flight voyage through Frankfurt, Dubai, Djibouti, Bossaso (on the Gulf of Aden), and, finally, Galkayo. Somalia is a place where a government has been built out of anarchy.
For centuries, stories of pirates have captured imaginations around the world. The recent bands of daring, ragtag pirates off the coast of Somalia, hijacking multimillion-dollar tankers owned by international shipping conglomerates, have brought the scourge of piracy into the modern era.
The capture of the American-crewed cargo ship Maersk Alabama in April 2009, the first United States ship to be hijacked in almost two centuries, catapulted the Somali pirates onto prime-time news. Then, with the horrific killing by Somali pirates of four Americans, two of whom had built their dream yacht and were sailing around the world (“And now on to: Angkor Wat! And Burma!” they had written to friends), the United States Navy, Special Operation Forces, FBI, Justice Department, and the world’s military forces were put on notice: the Somali seas were now the most perilous in the world.
Jay Bahadur, a journalist who dared to make his way into the remote pirate havens of Africa’s easternmost country and spend months infiltrating their lives, gives us the first close-up look at the hidden world of the pirates of war-ravaged Somalia.
Bahadur’s riveting narrative exposé—the first ever—looks at who these men are, how they live, the forces that created piracy in Somalia, how the pirates spend the ransom money, how they deal with their hostages. Bahadur makes sense of the complex and fraught regional politics, the history of Somalia and the self-governing region of Puntland (an autonomous region in northeast Somalia), and the various catastrophic occurrences that have shaped their pirate destinies. The book looks at how the unrecognized mini-state of Puntland is dealing with the rise—and increasing sophistication—of piracy and how, through legal and military action, other nations, international shippers, the United Nations, and various international bodies are attempting to cope with the present danger and growing pirate crisis.
A revelation of a world at the epicenter of political and natural disaster.
Excerpted from The Pirates of Somalia by Jay Bahadur. Copyright © 2011 by Jay Bahadur. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Jay Bahadur’s articles have appeared in The Times (London), The New York Times, the Financial Times, and The Globe and Mail (Toronto). He has advised the United States State Department and has worked as a freelance correspondent for CBS News. Bahadur currently lives in Nairobi, where he works as managing editor of the news site Somalia Report.
“Brave and exhaustively reported. . . . Bahadur has gone deep in exploring the causes of this seaborne crime wave.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Bahadur has borne witness and seen what no other journalist has seen. He has peeked behind the curtain of the pirates of Somalia in their faraway tribal homelands . . . and lived to tell about it.” —The Boston Globe
“A fascinating narrative that opens a hitherto largely unknown world to a wider audience.” —San Francisco Chronicle
"An illuminating guide. . . . Bahadur has probably spent more time with Somali pirates than just about any other Western researcher or writer.” —The New Republic
“A first-of-its kind book. . . . Takes readers through the evolution of the pirate groups from garrulous, self-proclaimed vigilantes who claim they are protecting Somalia’s waters from illegal fishing vessels to the deadly criminal gangs they are today.” —Associated Press
“Convincing. . . . In Bahadur’s telling, the fractured, tribal governance of Somalia’s territories is almost unbelievable in its dysfunction. And the year-by-year evolution of Somalian piracy is mesmerizing. . . . Look to The Pirates of Somalia for an aggregation
of all the news stories about this phenomenon over the past four years, with the additional, intimate layer—stories of the pirates from the pirates themselves—that no one else was reckless enough to get.” —The Plain Dealer
“This vivid and intelligent study of Somali pirates uncovers the reckless men behind the nation’s most lucrative business. . . . A
balanced and fascinating portrait.” —The Sunday Times (London)
“An insightful report. . . . Revelatory journalism and astute analysisof causes and solutions that prove far more informative than any
TV footage about the contemporary piracy problem.” —Booklist
“An engaging account, full of solid analysis. . . . What’s especially impressive (aside from Bahadur’s sheer nerve in insinuating himself among these dangerous men in a lawless corner of the world) is the amassing of multiple perspectives—of pirates and policymakers— that support a rich, suspenseful account.” —Publishers Weekly