Pirates commandeered a United States-flagged container ship with 20 American crew members off the coast of Somalia on Wednesday, the first time an American-crewed ship was seized by pirates in the area.

The container ship, the Maersk Alabama, was carrying thousands of tons of relief aid to the Kenyan port of Mombasa, the company that owns the ship said.

The ship was taken by pirates at about 7:30 a.m. local time, 280 miles southeast of the Somali city of Eyl, a known haven for pirates, a spokesman for the United States Navy said. It is owned and operated by Maersk Line Limited, a United States subsidiary of A.P. Moller – Maersk Group, the Danish shipping giant.

The Maersk Alabama was at least the sixth commercial ship commandeered by pirates this week off the Horn of Africa, one of the most notoriously lawless zones on the high seas, where pirates have been operating with near impunity despite efforts by many nations, including the United States, to intimidate them with naval warship patrols.

Via New York Times.  Arrrr.  Obviously, we hope our American crew and all aboard are allowed to return home unharmed.

I have an idea about a way to curtail these activities:  send them ships filled with reality TV stars, one after another after another.  Imagine a ship filled with Real World/Road Rules alumni, or perhaps another one with the contestants from a new series of Survivor, “Survivor: Somalia.”  When the pirates find themselves unable to collect ransom on them, they’ll soon grow weary of the whole venture.  Then perhaps they’ll retire to dry land and fall into Internet scamming, or another less violent hobby.

UPDATE, from the New York TimesAt about noon Eastern time, some twelve hours after the hijacking, a Pentagon official speaking on condition of anonymity said that “it is our understanding that the crew has taken back control of the vessel.”


After the Pope’s controversial comments on Islam, Sheikh Abubukar Hassan Malin of Somalia urged Muslims to “hunt the Pope down for his barbaric statements” (irony alert!):

“We urge you Muslims wherever you are to hunt down the Pope for his barbaric statements as you have pursued Salman Rushdie, the enemy of Allah who offended our religion,” he said in Friday evening prayers. “Whoever offends our Prophet Mohammed should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim,” Malin, a prominent cleric in the Somali capital, told worshippers at a mosque in southern Mogadishu. “We call on all Islamic Communities across the world to take revenge on the baseless critic called the pope,” he said. Reached by telephone by AFP yesterday, Malin confirmed making the remarks that were echoed in less strident form by other senior clerics in the Supreme Islamic Council of Somalia (SICS).

Full article here.  Meanwhile, rage there has erupted into violence, with tragic consequences:

Gunmen killed an Italian nun and her bodyguard Sunday at the entrance of the hospital where she worked, officials said, an attack some feared could be linked to Muslim anger toward Pope Benedict XVI.

Sister Leonella was shot in the back four times by two gunmen armed with pistols, Dr. Mohamed Yusef told The Associated Press. The shootings occurred midday Sunday at the Austrian-run S.O.S. hospital for women and children in volatile northern Mogadishu, witnesses and hospital officials said.

One person has been arrested and a search was under way for a second man, Yusuf Mohamed Siad, head of security for the Islamic courts now controlling the capital, told the AP. Sister Leonella, whose birth name was Rosa Sgorbati, had lived and worked in Kenya and Somalia for the last 38 years, family members said.

She was 65. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano denounced the slaying of the nun and her bodyguard as a “horrendous crime.” “A woman who had dedicated her life to the service of the weakest, the most defenseless and the neediest, beyond any ethnic or religious distinction, has been hit,” the Italian president said.

Via eitb24.

In Somalia, within the last 48 hours:

  • Eighteen key cabinet ministers have resigned, citing a failure to bring peace;
  • Lawmakers have begun debate on a motion of “no confidence” in the administration of Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Gedi;
  • Abdallah Deerow Isaq, the cabinet minister charged with leading the establishment of a new Somali constitution, is assassinated outside a mosque in Baidao, provoking violent street riots;
  • The Islamic militia that controls the capital, Mogadishu, has received a new large cargo shipment of unidentified equipment, possibly from Eritrea — signalling a coming battle with Ethiopian troops, who have entered Somalia to protect the new government from the Islamists.

From Slate, a week ago:

Yes, war is a terrible thing, but this one [i.e. the one in Lebanon] —contrary to the grandiose prognostications of Armageddon-obsessed pundits—will not bring about World War III or the end of the West or the defeat of extremist Islamism. It is now clear that the war in Lebanon is a limited, contained war, with modest goals and rational expectations. The war that has just started between Ethiopia and Somalia could be more vicious and could exact a greater toll of human lives, but it will probably get scant attention.

A charming fellow going by the name of Abu Bakr Naji has authored what must, objectively, be called a brilliant strategy manual for jihadists around the world, entitled The Management of Savagery. Found on the Internet and translated into English, it provides a fascinating look into the mind of an intellectual, worldly terrorist, who advocates reading modern management books (which have often taken their lessons from American business) as well as Western anthropological studies of Middle Eastern tribes in order to gain insights about ruling a future Islamic state. More chilling, however, is Naji’s advocacy of causing chaos in weaker states in Africa to provide a foundation for world domination — a scenario played out in Somalia, for example. By creating civil war, Naji aims to destabilize regions and then have jihadists enter and provide security for desperate peoples — in essence, by employing a manufactured heroism strategy. Naji is also quite sophisticated about the power of the media, asserting that U.S. geopolitical dominance is as much about the image of the U.S. as an invincible state as it is about actual U.S. firepower, and that to defeat the U.S., al-Qaeda must first defeat the U.S. image.

The bright side of all of this is that, while Naji’s manual may be a first-rate theory, life is a little less tidy. Commentators note that one of al-Qaeda’s more successful “princes,” the late al-Zarqawi, did not play by the book — he squandered media sympathy by attacking other Muslims, bombing Amman and beheading captives. Brutes rarely follow the rules, even the ones they’d be smart to follow.

Via NPR.