… because he feared being made to walk the plank…

I’ve found it a bit of a challenge (being on dry land…land far, far from the coast of Somalia) to keep my inner-child at bay while following this Somali-pirates-hijacked-Ukranian-freighter-which-happened-to-hold-
$30-million-worth-of-weapons
story.

I know it’s a serious problem. (The AP reports that 62 ships have been attacked in those “notorious African waters this year,” 26 have been hijacked and “12 remain in the hands of the pirates along with more than 200 crew members.” News to me.) But: Pirates! With a pirate spokesman (and he’s a pro)! Quoted today on A-1 of the New York Times!

It has been a big week for Sugule Ali Omar, that spokesman. Indeed, Sugule’s words are all over today’s Times (thanks to his “45-minute [telephone] interview” with the Times). He defends his pirate peers (saying they want “just money” and suggesting people “think of us like a coast guard”), he appears to make fun of a reporter’s question of what he and the pirates are eating aboard the hijacked ship (“normal human-being food”), and, he is not the least thrown off his talking points by a reporter’s follow-up question in this exchange:

“Killing is not in our plans. We only want money so we can protect ourselves from hunger.”

When asked why the pirates needed $20 million to protect themselves from hunger, Mr. Sugule laughed and said, ‘Because we have a lot of men.”

The Times spoke to “several pirates” but was told “that only Mr. Sugule was authorized to be quoted.”

The AP, too, got Sugule (their spelling, “Sugale”) on the phone yesterday but reports that “on Wednesday, his phone rang and rang but no one picked it up.” Also included in the AP report (something that the Times story left me wondering): who owns and was operating the ship that was carrying the $30 million of weapons toward Kenya? Sudan? Who else is on board apart from, you know, pirates?

Ukrainian news agencies have said the ship’s operator is Tomex Team, based in the Black Sea port of Odessa….

[The ship] had a crew of 21, mostly Ukrainians, but a man who has been identified as the first mate, Vladimir Nikolsky, told The Associated Press on Sunday that one man died of hypertension. Russian media said it was the freighter’s captain, Vladimir Kolobkov.


Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.