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Interview with a pirate

Lloyd’s List, a London-based source for global maritime and shipping news, published an exclusive interview with one of Somalia’s most prolific maritime hijackers, who predicts an escalation of violence in the piracy crisis, warning that the outlaws are now prepared to murder hostages to gain higher ransoms. An excerpt follows:

Richard Meade, News Editor at Lloyd’s List, has conducted an exclusive interview with a Somali pirate who called himself Garaad Mohammed, and who claims to have been directly involved in the high profile recent hijackings of the very large crude carrier Sirius Star and the Malta-flagged bulker Ariana.

Mohammed says he has been involved in dozens of hijackings, including May’s fatal hijacking of the Marathon, in which one crewmember was injured and a Ukranian crew member was killed.

Using words that signal a shocking change of tactics for the pirates, Mohammed boasted that his pirate gangs could not be stopped by naval forces and warned that crew would be punished if ship owners did not pay full ransoms on demand.

Of the killing onboard the Marathon, Mohammed was unequivocal: “It was because of the ransom. They gave it late. If we get our demands we treat them well. But if the ship owners deny our ransom, we punish them. That is just the way it is.”

Security sources who have seen a full transcript of the interview agree that the threat is ‘credible’ and have suggested that the timing of the approach to Lloyd’s List should be seen as an escalation of the negotiating tactics now being employed by the pirates.

In an editorial comment accompanying the Lloyd’s List article on the interview, Meade says that the implicit threat of violence towards crew held hostage by Somali pirates is a worrying development and a loaded message to the industry.

“Although the words of Garaad Mohammed may well be crude rhetoric designed to add leverage to ransom negotiations, they should not be dismissed as an idle threat,” says Meade. “Until recently, crews held hostage in Somalia have been treated as well as could be expected under the circumstances. However, the facts that pirates are willing to claim responsibility for the death of one seafarer and that some crew have been returned from captivity with injuries does increase the pressure on our industry and on the forces that are trying to protect the Gulf of Aden.”

The escalation is clear, the stakes are high and the pirate’s message is chilling: “For 20 years we don’t have a central government, for 20 years the world betrayed us. America, Africa, Arab League,” says Mohammed. “We are going to punish them as they punished us. And we are going to make business.”