A notorious Somali pirate that terrorized the seas for years is now finally behind bars in Belgium. While that is certainly newsworthy, what is even more so is that Mohamed Abdi Hassan literally handed himself to the lawmakers not because he was sorry, but because he believed they were filmmakers and he, the star of their next blockbuster!
The chain of events that led to this rather amusing conclusion began in 2009, when Hassan hijacked a Belgian ship called Pompei, kidnapped its nine-member crew and kept them in captivity for ten weeks, until he was paid a $3 mm USD ransom. While two of his underlings were captured, Hassan managed to escape.
But Belgian prosecutors were not ready to let him declare victory. Knowing fully well that they would receive no help from the Somali government they concocted a rather clever plan to lure him in. Undercover agents from the Belgian police force infiltrated Hassan's inner circle and convinced his key henchman that they were making a movie about high seas crime and wanted the kingpin to be the chief advisor. Though it took a few months, the plan worked.
On Saturday, October 12th, Hassan whose nickname happens to be Afweyne ('Big Mouth' in Somali), and his sidekick Ticeey, landed in Brussels expecting to be whisked off to a life of fame. And they were not disappointed! A team of agents did take them away, just not to the life of luxury they were expecting, but to a jail in Bruges, where they will face charges of kidnapping and criminal organization.
The irony of it all is that Hassan who is believed to be the mastermind behind the hijacking of dozens of commercial vessels from 2008 to 2013, purportedly retired from International piracy earlier this year, calling it a 'dirty business'. He also announced that going forth, he would spend his life persuading youngsters against getting into the business - Something that he may have inadvertently accomplished, now that he is behind bars!
While Hassan is one of the biggest and earliest piracy kingpins, he is not the only one. Hijacking of commercial vessels and even the occasional cruise liner has been a major concern in the busy shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea for many years. The crisis escalated between 2010-2012 when an estimated 3,000-5,000 pirates operated in the area and that collectively managed to earn about $160 million USD in ransom. Not only that, the disruption and the increased security, cost the world economy over $9 billion dollars. Things have calmed down a little lately, as shipping companies have become more vigilant and even employed armed guards to protect their vessels. In addition, the national governments of many countries are collaborating on patrolling the waters and trying to bring these pirates to justice. But that has proved somewhat elusive because of the lack of support from the Somali government, which is why officials are forced to conjure up tricks similar to the one they pulled on Mohamed Abdi Hassan.