Background report on Somalia pirates

UK Reuters published a decent summary. My first question is, “What have ambassadors and embassy staff been doing the last years? Teaching abstinence and sipping wine?”

Away from the international limelight, the gangs have been striking regularly for years. After the rescue of U.S. ship captain Richard Phillips, they still hold about 260 hostages, including nearly 100 Filipinos, on 17 captured vessels.

So who are these modern-day buccaneers?

How did the pirates start?

* When warlords toppled former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia collapsed into anarchy. That led to a wave of illegal fishing, plus dumping of toxic and industrial waste, in Somali waters by foreign fleets from Europe and Asia.

* Towards the end of the decade, local fishermen and militia formed groups with names like the “Somali Coastguards” and the “National Volunteer Coastguards”, to drive away or apprehend the vessels from South Korea, Italy, Spain, Thailand and elsewhere.

* Seeing how easy it was to capture ships, those groups metamorphosed this decade into old-fashioned pirate gangs, becoming ever more sophisticated in methods and bold in range.

Mark Morford, columnist at SFGate asks, “What’s a Somali pirate? Why, just your avg post-anarchy do-gooder vigilante fisherman-turned-sophisticated criminal thug.”