Jeffrey Gettleman warns that the pirates are winning:
Somali pirates will strike anything: one-thousand-foot-long oil tankers; tiny sailboats with three people on board; old-fashioned, crescent-sailed Arab dhows; freighters crammed with emergency food; freighters crammed with weapons; a tanker carrying extremely flammable benzene that American authorities worried could be converted into an enormous, floating bomb. The pirates have even attacked navy ships, apparently by mistake.
No one knows exactly how much they have netted in the past few years in ransoms but it is safe to assume at least $100 million. Often the booty makes them giddy. After a parachute packed with $3 million drifted down to the deck of the Sirius Star, a Saudi supertanker that a band of young Somali pirates hijacked in late 2008, the pirates divvied up the cash and impetuously sped away in their dinghies, in the middle of a squall. Several capsized and drowned. One dead pirate washed up on the beach with more than $150,000 in his pockets.
This excess has created a budding pirate culture. Pirate weddings are elaborate two- or three-day affairs, stretching deep into the night, with bandsand bridesflown in from outside Somalia and convoys of expensive 4x4 trucks. The prettiest young women in pirate towns dream of a pirate groom; little boys can hardly wait until they are old enough to sling an AK-47 over their shoulder and head out to sea. In these places, the entire local economy revolves around hijacking ships, with hundreds of men, women, and children employed as guards, scouts, cooks, deckhands, mechanics, skiff-builders, accountants, and tea-makers.
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