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April 9th, 2009
11:14 AM ET

Somali women flocking to port in hope of marrying pirates

Former Navy SEAL Kaj Larsen decribes the dificulties in combating pirates off the Somali coast.
Former Navy SEAL Kaj Larsen decribes the dificulties in combating pirates off the Somali coast.

Pirates are holding a U.S. captain hostage at sea. The Navy is watching everything that happens. So what is supposed to happen next? And what is driving this problem? We talked to someone who knows a thing or two about the pirates and has experience covering them in Somalia. Kaj Larsen, former U.S. Navy SEAL, spoke to T.J. Holmes on CNN’s American Morning Thursday.

Larsen says the root conditions of poverty, lawlessness and civil war on the ground in Somalia are to blame. The large sums of ransom money being paid out to pirates, he says, is even leading some Somali women to venture to the port town of Bosaso in hopes of marrying these newly-rich men.

T.J. Holmes: We know that piracy pays. What is it that's going to break this cycle if every time they take a ship, they get paid. Why stop it?

Kaj Larsen: That's the 50 or $100 million question, which is about the money that the pirates took in last year in ransom. The solution unfortunately is not going to be a military-centric one. Ultimately, you to have to find some way to govern this ungoverned space, this lawless sanctuary that the pirates have in Somalia. That's really the only long-term solution you’re going to see to this problem.

Holmes: Let's start with the military solution. Why not send a message?

Larsen: Certainly there would be some deterrent effect. I think in this case, the incentives are so large. The money that they’re making is so extraordinary, especially by Somalia standards, that it would be difficult. However, in this particular situation, the goal is to solve it as quickly and as safely as possible without putting the hostage in jeopardy.

Holmes: There are hopeless, deplorable conditions in Somalia. A life of piracy looks pretty good for some of these young men compared to the conditions in Somalia.

Larsen: You couldn't have said it better, T.J. I’ve been on the ground in Somalia. One of the interesting demographic things that’s happening right now is that single Somali women are flocking to the port town Bosaso where these pirates come out of in the hopes of marrying a pirate. So you can see that it really is - the root conditions of poverty, lawlessness and civil war on the ground in Somalia are really what are breeding this problem.

Holmes: Is it worth the risk for these companies to continue to go through the Gulf of Aden? Does it cost much to take another route? Is it worth it to take the chance, pay the ransom, and keep moving?

Larsen: So far, that's been the model. As these attacks increase, we've seen six in the last week alone, the cost of doing business in that area is just going to be too high. The insurance companies are going to jack up the rates of insurance. And at some point, they're not going to be able to continue without taking much more serious security measures or without finding an alternative route.

Holmes: Do you think this situation will begin to draw more attention to what's happening there off the Horn of Africa and maybe more action will begin to be taken by countries all over the world?

Larsen: I think this is a clarion call to the international community that Somalia is and continues to be a failed state. And that if we don't continue to pay attention to it, if we don't start changing the conditions on the ground there, if we don't start governing that ungoverned space that it’s going to be a breeding ground for piracy and possibly international terrorism. So yes, I would hope that this situation, that the silver lining in the cloud is that people would start paying attention to this horrific situation in the country there.

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Filed under: Piracy
soundoff (742 Responses)
  1. jim

    stop them we have the power and the means to so why are there still captives and why have there boats and the pirates themselves not been destroyed????

    February 1, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  2. Tester

    I cannot believe this is true!

    July 13, 2009 at 4:04 pm |
  3. Sumaya

    “Kill them all, blow up their boats. What other “responce” is available? Make them tea? Bake a cake? They do it because they can get away with doing it; make the price too high, and it will go away.”

    You must be thirsty for human lives, but to say kill them all is very horrible comment. I truly believe piracy acts are criminal acts when the people are doing for pleasure acts. However, I justify Somalia piracy, because they are protecting their sea from illegal fishing, and dumping of waste. I do not think piracy in Somalia will end, until the two factors I have mention before is resolved.

    May 27, 2009 at 7:41 pm |
  4. Outofjobmyself

    Hey I am recently unemployed – maybe I should take up Piracy – seems easy enough – very little risk

    April 20, 2009 at 10:49 pm |
  5. K2

    I totally agree with Ian R. I have been advocating that for a long time. Simple soltuion, does not involve having to arm and train the crew, and would work for almost 100% of the piracy problems.

    April 14, 2009 at 3:49 pm |
  6. therandymancan

    Now 400 Somali women, one sheep, and two camels are going to say that the U.S.A. killed their husbands. Each Muslim pirate is allowed to marry 166.666 females. Anything goes, as long as it's female. I feel real sorry for the sheep and camels. I've never seen .6666 women, so the figure must give animals fractional values.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
  7. therandymancan

    Crap. I was off on the head count. I said 4 snipers and 4 headshots. They left one head still intact. Damn. I'm out 50 bucks. Read my earlier post up top.

    Now the international community needs to sell EZ-Passes to ships to establish identity and clearance requirements for ships leaving the Somali port area. Cheap transponders can be used to ID vessels on demand.

    April 13, 2009 at 12:45 pm |
  8. Big B

    To you people who are recommending that the US negotiate with Somalia over the piracy issue, do you really believe that these thugs represent the government of Somalia? And to you people who rationalize that the piracy is somehow justified due to the deplorable conditions in Somalia, I ask you how many millions of dollars does it take to properly feed my family? Come on, this is nothing but greed.

    But I've got to give the pirates credit – what they're doing has proven to be much more profitable than the white collar execs who are sitting around in plush AIG, BOA, and CitiBank offices waiting for their bonuses and bail outs to be passed out.

    April 11, 2009 at 8:43 pm |
  9. Mike

    If the root cause to the problem is poverty, then maybe "bombing"
    them with a few billion condoms will solve the problem.

    Gee, maybe then they'll get the hint.. maybe having 15 kids with no way to feed them is not a good idea.

    April 11, 2009 at 8:20 pm |
  10. al thor

    these somali pirates do not kill or rape or plunder. there are simple fishermen who have seen their livelihoods destroyed by european and asia fishing companies who have taken advantage of somalia having no navy or coast guard to protect their rich fishing resources.

    the pirates are hungry poor and have nothing to live for. piracy is the only thing that is keeping entire towns from drowning in famine and misery.

    the international community should guarntee that no ships will entire somali waters and steal fish or dump toxic waste. help somalia get on it's feet with a stable government which can offer law and order. make them patrol their own seas.

    piracy will then stop

    April 11, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  11. J P in California "EX navy"

    Very simple procedure to end this stand off,

    1. get navy divers or seals on scene

    2. teams dive under boat at night

    3. drill hole in boat

    4. boat starts sinking

    5. somalis have 2 choices
    a. hang on to a 25lb gun and sink and drown or
    b. drop weapons to swim to stay afloat.

    its pretty hard to hold a gun on some one while trying to stay afloat

    either way it puts the out come on our terms

    problem solved

    April 10, 2009 at 11:01 pm |
  12. sarsen56

    Q ships...

    April 10, 2009 at 10:36 pm |
  13. capt'n rob

    man the guns ye bilge rats!

    April 10, 2009 at 5:24 pm |
  14. jmndos

    I assume the US warships are going ventilate the pirates and the mothership after the prisoner exchange happens...

    April 10, 2009 at 4:04 pm |
  15. creeping

    They are flocking to come to the US too...this is why Muslims in Minnesota get paid prayer breaks, win $1.35M settlement

    Meanwhile, Somali Muslim cabbies seek priviledges at Cleveland International Airport even though they don't get any such privileges in Somalia

    April 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  16. Captain Crook

    Ahoy landlubbers!
    Shiver me timbers
    Handsomely now!


    April 10, 2009 at 3:35 pm |
  17. Lorraine

    and demanding ransom from CARGO SHIPS where the crew are UNARMED. There is no THREAT here! The Pirates are attacking innocent people............

    April 10, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  18. Lorraine

    The Pirates are commiting a C-R-I-M-E Aziz. It's called robbery, taking Hostages and demanding ransom FROM . This is NOT

    April 10, 2009 at 2:19 pm |
  19. Laurentine Gates

    I don't know how else to get in touch with CNN but

    I was watching the interview with a captain who's ship was
    taken in 1978. The woman doing the interview had some great

    If you are going to interview someone, then let them talk.
    She apparently loves the sound of her own voice and thinks
    her expertise surpasses the person she is interviewing.

    Thanks for letting me blow off steam. I was screaming at the
    TV over this particular incident. Please, please let one person
    talk at a time.

    April 10, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  20. aziz

    Well the somalis have the right to protect there water ...there not harming anyone only asking for there share of the price been made from there water. God Bless America and God Bless Somalia

    April 10, 2009 at 11:40 am |
  21. mr.

    "Kill them all, blow up their boats. What other “responce” is available? Make them tea? Bake a cake? They do it because they can get away with doing it; make the price too high, and it will go away."

    This is such a naive post. People in Somalia are starving anyways, killing a few dozen pirates compared to the millions dying from starvation and civil war wont make a difference. The risk of being a pirate is relatively small, even if we did what you said

    April 10, 2009 at 11:37 am |
  22. PRB

    Maybe we should just use satilite technology to search all of somolia to find the big "X" and dig up the ransom money they were all paid.

    April 10, 2009 at 11:02 am |
  23. Lunar

    I agree with Ian R.

    April 10, 2009 at 10:05 am |
  24. captain ron got to go back to ye day when ye sit down wit da somalli fellas and talk to em like they be ye say..would ye like a chicken bone, o rather a rib dipped in whiskey, rye..o..rum?? me...I like ye old fashion rum pull ye draws up and git on the end o that plank....Ahrrrrrrrr.

    April 10, 2009 at 8:23 am |
  25. spudm

    Somali pirates – AIG pirates – Hedge fund pirates – Bank director pirates – Congress pirates ..... they all steal from the taxpayers.

    April 10, 2009 at 7:42 am |
  26. thegaber

    The Namesake anyone?

    April 10, 2009 at 4:08 am |
  27. pavocavalry

    good for pirates.Somali women are quite good looking actually.I saw one in Travel Lodge on Columbia Pike Arlington in 1996 called Ahlam Eissa.One of the most stunning beauties that I saw.

    April 10, 2009 at 1:45 am |
  28. Bill in Detroit

    If those pirates HAD delivered the captain, would they be alive now?

    They wouldn't have live long enough to make the evening news ... this event "never would have happened" (unless the US chose to make it known.)

    Since they are essentially motionless in the water, I would expect that they will be getting a visit from the nearest Navy Seals fairly soon. If they kill the captain, their lives are forfeit. If they don't, their lives may be forfeit anyways. I look for the life raft to "spring a leak."

    And that's not actually the best outcome.

    Perhaps if other nations quit propping up these 'banana republics' with food aid AND ammunition and make them play nice in order to survive at all (but reward 'playing nice' with real prospects for general prosperity), this stuff will stop happening.

    But, so long as we free up the money they would spend on food by giving them the food (from US taxes) and letting them use it for weapons (bought from private corporations, from a variety of nations, including America), this is the situation we will face.

    If foreign nations are indeed using the coast of Somalia as a waste dumping ground, that needs to be dealt with harshly and soon.

    When the Somali's commit piracy, it's about money (and gives US security forces a chance to see what the ship is actually carrying, vs. what the manifest says it's carrying). If the Somali's don't board a US vessel once in a while, the other nations are going to get wise to what's going on, eh?

    When we dump in their coastal waters, it's about life.

    Let's get something straight, all you militant morons ... when we pee in other people's cornflakes, WE guarantee that the terrorists are able to make them a better offer. WE do that. Al Queda comes in behind us, cleans up our mess and then the rocket-fuel-for-brains sort come out with this "nuke 'em, nuke 'em" BS.

    If the US wants to remain a world power AT ALL, it had better get its act together ... and soon.

    April 10, 2009 at 12:40 am |
  29. Carl Lost

    A restructuring of Somalia is very impractical. The money we will spend will be severly disproportional to the money pirates are taking from us. We should not be the world police, and in dealing with pirates our interests should kept to ourselves. Simply designate a perimter of which any "suspicious" ship will be notified to leave, and if not, they will be fired upon. An offensive stance is quite clearly the easiest solution. Even if the Somalia people are willing to take risk, you cut down their chance of sucess to 0%, and desperation will fail to factor into this problem. Same with escalation arguement. We can match their weopons as we probably and ironically the manufactures of the one's they are using now.

    April 9, 2009 at 10:04 pm |
  30. toolboxed

    Why does "bad" continue unchecked? Because someone is undoubtably making money somewhere besides the pirates. What do pirates spend money on? Where does that money go? Kenya mostly. Kenya costal property has sky rocketed directly because of pirate money. Our ships have been cleaning house with them and now they are slowly shifting south.

    Guy who suggested RPGs at the top, you are an idiot.

    Why doesn't the world take a more active role? Because who cares? I do you probably do now that you've read this article but thats about it. What money is to be made in Somalia? Somalia sucks no one wants to go there. It is not nice and it isn't cool that the situation is like that but it is.

    Next any one care to blame the U.S. for this? I know there is someone who can think of a way to pin it on the U.S.

    Finally the solution. MAGTF with escort task force. If you don't know what a MAGTF is then google it. Its why you can read in english.

    April 9, 2009 at 10:01 pm |
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