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April 8, 2009
Posted: 1508 GMT

Hello everyone,

It seems we can say history was made today: it is being said that for the first time since 1804, African pirates have managed to hijack an American-flagged ship. The last time anything like this happened, Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States.

Early Wednesday, pirates seized a ship with 20 American crews members off the coast of Somalia. The Laersk Alabama was carrying tons of relief supplies bound for Kenya, according to the company that owns the ship.

With nicer weather, Somali pirates are out vessel fishing again in the Gulf of Aden. They want ransoms paid and they almost always get what they ask for.

British, French, Taiwanese and German vessels have been seized in recent months. Last year, pirates attacked as many as 100 vessels off the coast of Somalia. Nothing seems to deter the assailants. In fact, they're gaining experience, organization and millions in cold hard cash.

It seems Somali pirates are managing to work as teams and are never seen fighting amongst themselves, according to witnesses. In other words, they are managing in the high seas what they have not managed to do on land in lawless Somalia: cooperate and work as a team.

We're asking today in the I-Desk poll: what is the best way to stop pirate attacks off the horn of Africa?

We're live in the region with our Stand Grant and are trying to get in touch with Barbara Starr who is with the Fifth fleet in Bahrain for the U.S. response to the latest events.

Also today: the Italian earthquake. We are live once again with Fionnuala Sweeney on the shaky grounds of L'Aquila. Our team has spoken with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Speaking of the Italian PM – and in typical Berlusconi style – the Italian leader managed another gaffe today, telling a German journalist the survivors of the earthquake in tent cities should just see themsleves as being on a "camping week-end."

He may have been trying to comfort survivors but many didn't see it that way. At all.

Also on tap: U.S.-Cuba relations. We're live in Havana for more on an American congressional delegation's trip to the Cuban capital.

We'll also talk about Richard Holbrooke's visit to india.

That, and the rest of the hour's top news, at the I-Desk.

See you on TV,

Hala

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Filed under: Today At The I-Desk


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Fawad Ali   April 8th, 2009 3:24 pm ET

What will happen to Americans who were on board……what if these pirates make a deal with Iranians: Iranians and terrorists probably willing to pay them big lump sum to get these Americans……

And when terrorists have no right to live then why these pirates are out there, charging millions for crossing.

What we are waiting for? perhaps "facing a 9/11 type attack at sea" before we wage a war against these pirates

Robert Rasmussen   April 8th, 2009 4:27 pm ET

The rapid increase in the rate of pirate attacks, and the expansion of the range of pirate attacks show that the nature of the economy in Somalia is that piracy is the most lucrative business venture that an individual can partake in. There are many people who are more than willing to participate, as fishermen with boats, seafaring knowledge, and guns, have no livelihood as the fish populations have been destroyed through a mixture of chemical dumping and overfishing by non-Somali firms.

The end result is that a social construct has emerged that supports piracy as a whole. It will be a static and costly problem in terms of maritime security, because for every pirate killed or captured another will take his place, with a never ending supply of people who have not much income or prospects, and a dream of making it big. The area in which pirates can now strike is beyond the capabilities of any navy to actively secure, and is a direct threat to international economic security, as well as the national securities of twelve different states.

The international community (via the UNSC, NATO, AU, EU, etc...) needs to take proactive action in order to aid the Somali Transitional Federal Government and the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia retake the territory of Somalia, and project sovereign force over it to stop piracy at its source. Also, environmental regulation and aid needs to be introduced into Somalia to replenish the fish populations, to give fishermen a livelihood again. The costs of not taking action will inevitably cost more than the costs of taking action.

Graeme   April 8th, 2009 4:28 pm ET

The solution is simple. Send a few decoy ships though the region, armed with the necessary to blow a few pirates out of the water... and hey presto! The end to the pirate problem for good.

danny   April 8th, 2009 4:30 pm ET

simple,the international community should help and bring peace and other in Somali,what should we expect from any broken government .
Danny from swiss

concerning Somali-pirates   April 8th, 2009 4:41 pm ET

Hello! I think there is several solutions to this problem,but the military force are not the best one.
1. One option it to communicate with the pirates, consider they are desperate young people with out any future, and this is their way to survive. They have been living with civil war in 20 years with no hope, some of them born during the armed hostilities between groups and such circumstance is normal for them.
2. I think the international community should discuss serious about the horn Africa issue insted to attack and inflict pain and damage to them.
3. What about to recognize Somaliland, I think it will help the rest of Somalia to make peace inside and I think the coastline will be safe.
4. In any case it is wrong and illegal to judge them in Kenya or to kill them, becouse they kidnapping of skips, it is against humanitarian rights
Best greeting
Fatima Madar, Oslo Norway

jennifer   April 8th, 2009 4:42 pm ET

Is there another perspective on what all of this international
ransom is funding for these pirates besides depleted fish
populations?

Hadrian Gallo   April 8th, 2009 5:36 pm ET

I have good friends in L'Aquila that I have not been able to reach, is there a list of dead or missing that is available? In case anybody cares about the correct pronunciation, it is LA-kwee-la / LOCK-wee-la

Robert Rasmussen   April 8th, 2009 6:24 pm ET

^The money derived from ransom is without a doubt flowing through the informal economy of Somalia. There is a potential problem there, as there has historically speaking, nexuses or meeting points between criminal and terrorist organizations emerge at the middle management level. The ransom paid to pirates is an untraceable form of hard cash that has a potential for making its way into the coffers of terrorist organizations. Just one more level of complexity to a complex situation. Also it is important to note that extremely complex situations warrant complex, multilateral, multiple strategic responses... that is unless the international community wants to patch up a problem and deal with an even bigger one in about 20-40 years. Piracy is the most lucrative business venture a Somali young man can partake in, and the problem will continue to skyrocket as the Somali population grows (currently at a rate of 2.2% population increase).

Robert Rasmussen   April 8th, 2009 6:28 pm ET

Also, to respond to Graeme's comment above. That would work, except with the fact that these are Somalis, who historically have shown fierceness in the face of an overwhelming force attempting to project power over them (i.e. Battle of Mogadishu- 1993). Best solution is to crush the problem on the ground not in the water, where an adequate maritime security force can not be fielded without damaging the strategic interests of the great powers.

Tarek   April 8th, 2009 7:46 pm ET

Hi hala and the rest team of Idesk.

Regarding my privious comment that i am not intersted it dosenot mean that i donot care, infact i care more then you think, mostly about children.

But still have not changed my opinon regarding hala close and over all look as you red before.

bye take care.

Anthony S. de Sales   April 9th, 2009 1:53 pm ET

It is interesting to note, the US warship which responded to the pirates who boarded the US cargo ship off the coast of Somalia is named the USS Bainbridge. I checked it out in the internet and I discovered that an American Naval officer William Bainbridge also faught the pirates during the Barbary Wars in the 1800s.

Anthony S. de Sales, Manila, Philippines

Empower Pirates   April 9th, 2009 2:08 pm ET

Why do we empower these Pirates by acting stupid? Many ships can easily be protected in dangerous waters by only a few warships if the ships travel in Convoy. Ships in convoy are safe. The pirates can't get to them. The pirates will eventually either starve to death or be forced into less profitable activities such as politics or education. thanks for reading, Tom Milam

John Lathrop   April 12th, 2009 12:53 am ET

The answer is simple: convoys, just like we did in WWII against the German submarine "wolf packs."

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