While much of the world's economy is in the doldrums, business is booming for Somalia's pirates, whose attacks on commercial ships sailing Africa's east coast are more frequent, violent and lucrative than ever.
Pirates took in an estimated $160 million in ransoms last year, and
one study predicts the number will climb to $400 million by 2015, as the
high seas thieves continue their brazen reign on the Indian Ocean.
Efforts by shipping companies to beef up security, and by the European
Union, which has mounted airstrikes on pirate ships, have so far been
met with stepped-up attacks. Chillingly, pirates are now chopping off
the limbs of captives in extreme cases when the airdrop of cash isn't
made quickly enough to suit them.
"It's an established, structured model, where you have Somalis who
are leading and financing operations and then you have pirates who
actually go out to sea and conduct the activity," Brian Green, chief of
the counter-piracy branch of the Office of Naval Intelligence, told
FoxNews.com of the piracy industry. "They are, more or less, foot
soldiers. They find targets of opportunity, attack them with the goal of
hijacking and bringing that vessel back to Somalia."