Pirates living like kings

MV Sirus Star anchored off Somalia coast after being hijacked
Daylife/AP Photo by William S. Stevens

As dawn breaks over the Indian Ocean each morning, elders in Somali pirate bases sip strong coffee and clutch mobile phones to their ears, eager to hear the latest from the gunmen out at sea.

Have any more ships been hijacked or ransom talks concluded? Any news of the Western warships hunting them?

Last weekend’s spectacular capture of a Saudi Arabian supertanker loaded with oil worth $100 million has jacked up the stakes in what is probably the only growth industry in the failed Horn of Africa state.

Massive ransoms have brought rapid development to former fishing villages that now thrive with business and boast new beachside hotels, patronized by cash-rich buccaneers who have become local celebrities virtually overnight

Just three years ago, maritime security experts estimated there were just five Somali pirate groups and fewer than 100 gunmen in total. Now they think there are more than 1,200…

The biggest lure now, of course, is the vast ransoms being paid for captured ships. Kenya says it thinks the pirates have received more than $150 million this year alone.

Next, they’ll be joining country clubs, invited to meetings in Davos.

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