The resistance put up by the American crew of the Maersk Alabama and the dramatic Easter Sunday rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, of Underhill, Vermont, who had been held by Somali pirates since April 8, may cause pirates to think twice about targeting Americans. But some Somali pirates are threatening retaliation for the U.S. military action that resulted in three pirates being killed and one taken captive.
Sooner or later it was bound to happen. Over the past several years, American ships and crews had evaded the rising tide of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea. But on April 8, pirates off the coast of Somalia seized a U.S.-flagged container ship, the Maersk Alabama, with a crew of 20 Americans. However, the American seamen were unwilling to join the crews of 18 other ships who are being held for ransom by the Somali pirates. In what is believed to be an unprecedented action in the Somali pirates’ sphere of operations, the unarmed crew fought back and overpowered their attackers.
The piracy that has become rampant off the coast of Somalia is reported in the news almost daily, but the recent hijacking of the Saudi oil tanker Sirius Star and its $100 million cargo brought unprecedented attention to the problem. A November 25 article in the British Telegraph newspaper featured an interview with the ship's chief engineer, a Briton, who told a reporter that the ship's crew had been well treated. The article also reported that the Sirius Star "is currently being held in waters off the lawless pirate-infested port of Haradheere, in central Somalia." The article also noted that the pirates, 10 days after the hijacking, had dropped their ransom demand from $25 million to $15 million, confirming that their motives were primarily economic and that — with negotiations bogged down — they would discount their goods to move them.
The UN Security Council voted unanimously on November 20 to send more than 3,000 additional personnel (2,785 troops and 300 police officers) to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in response to continued fighting and a humanitarian crisis in the African nation's eastern region. The increase will bring the total troop strength of the Mission of the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (known by its French acronym, MONUC), to a little over 20,000 troops. An estimated 250,000 people have fled their homes in recent months because of the conflict between the DRC government and rebel forces of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) led by General Laurent Nkunda. Nkunda's troops withdrew from positions north of the city of Goma on November 19 to give aid workers access to the area. Goma is located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, next to the Rwandan city of Gisenyi.
In December 1992, just weeks before lame-duck President George Bush left office, the United States invaded Somalia to attempt to stabilize and provide humanitarian aid to the famine-wracked nation. Ever since the ouster of Somali dictator Siad Barre the previous year, a bitter, multi-sided civil war featuring various warlords jockeying for control had torn apart the impoverished nation on the horn of East Africa. The U.S. (and UN) occupation of Somalia, as anyone who has seen the movie Black Hawk Down is well aware, was a total failure, costing the lives of many U.S. and foreign servicemen in a vain attempt to keep the peace in one of the world's most dangerous trouble spots.