Click photo to go to Reuters story about pirate weapons
I've been missing for the last week, busy camping with the Boy Scouts and other things. But our friends in the Horn of Africa haven't been napping. 

A predictable development that illustrates the linked nature of war, terrorism, and the arms markets has arisen recently, and I think the following three stories throw it in harsh light.

The first is this YouTube video - which you've probably seen, as it's gone seriously viral - recording the actions of a security team on what looks like a bulk ship. An aggressive attack from two skiffs is repelled by small arms fire from a security team on the ship's bridge. A storm of commentary has arisen over this video - one might, for instance, question the use of pallets for shielding - but even as a former Swift boat crewman in Vietnam, I don't see enough in the video to draw any hard & fast conclusions about tactics or legality. I think most of us are happy to see that the attackers were driven off. In case you haven't seen it, here's the video:

Armed resistance is the only tactic that has shown much success against piracy to date, in spite of recommended non-violent "best practices" involving ship routing, evasive maneuvers, on board secure citadels, etc. This is leading more companies to adopt armed resistance as their defense in pirate waters. Here is a news item telling us that Japanese ships are now to get armed guards:  

The use of armed guards, in spite of some notable successes, has also led to some very unfortunate results, as in the ENRICA LEXIE case (click on "Fishermen Shot" & "Missing VDR Data" in the Categories column on the right side of the page). In that instance, two Indian fishermen were shot, the ship's armed team (who were Italian military personnel) mistaking them for pirates. 

Anyone with experience in war knows that such mistakes have to happen in any conflict - it's never a question of "if", only of "when". Friendly fire, civilian casualties and the like will happen no matter how determined forces may be ensure that only the enemy comes under fire. It's human history - and that's one downside of the success armed teams have had. 

Here is another: success by one side in a conflict inevitably leads the other side to seek a way to regain the advantage. In an armed conflict, that usually means acquiring better weaponry. 
According to this story from Reuters  (or click the photo at the head of the article), Somalian pirates are upping the ante by buying sophisticated Libyan weapons on the black market. 

According to Reuters: "We found that Libyan weapons are being sold in what is the world's biggest black market for illegal gun smugglers, and Somali pirates are among those buying from sellers in Sierra Leone, Liberia and other countries," said Judith van der Merwe, of the Algiers-based African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism. 

"We believe our information is credible and know that some of the pirates have acquired ship mines, as well as Stinger and other shoulder-held missile launchers," (emphasis mine) Van der Merwe told Reuters on the sidelines of an Indian Ocean naval conference.

This is bad news, and augers ill for some ship crews if these weapons are put to use.

Is your ship routing through pirate waters, in East Africa or elsewhere? As someone on the front lines, we want your opinion - please comment!

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