Attrition: The Myth Of the Non-Lethal Pirate


August 29, 2011: Although the Somali pirates like to cultivate an image of non-lethal bad guys (the better to dissuade attacks on their bases), this is not the case. Over the last four years, about two percent of the 3,500 seamen taken captive died or were killed before being ransomed. Some were killed during the attack, or while captives. Others died from illness, disease, and the lack of medical care in the pirate bases. At least ten percent of the captives were seriously injured by torture, beatings, ill treatment and disease.

The pirates have threatened to treat their captives even more harshly if the naval forces hunting them at sea kill or take captive pirates. Some nations have ignored these threats, but many others play it safe and generally avoid hurting the pirates. This policy is called “catch and release.” Pirates caught in the act are disarmed, and then deposited on a Somali beach. Some nations catch and kill, but they generally do it quietly.



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