KAMPALA, Uganda — A Somali man charged with piracy in an American court after the 2009 hijacking of the US-flagged Maersk Alabama has been found guilty and sentenced to 33 years in prison.
The attack on the Alabama in April that year and the subsequent days-long standoff in which a gang of armed pirates held Captain Richard Phillips hostage until their deaths at the hands of Navy SEAL snipers drew American attention to the ongoing piracy off the coast of Somalia.
Piracy continues, the oceans from the Red Sea to India are the wide open hunting grounds for increasing numbers of desperate gun-toting Somali men, and ransoms are multiplying, usually reaching into the millions of dollars.
A long prison sentence like the one handed down to Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse by a New York court on Wednesday might be a disincentive to some pirates, or not. Some point out that trading Somalia’s lawless badlands, where life is punctuated by violence and hunger, for a U.S. federal prison may not be such a bad swap.
But the sentencing will add to the sense that piracy is becoming a more dangerous business for those involved. Growing number of upturned skiffs found floating out at sea by international navy patrol boats suggest that greater numbers of pirates are drowning (or perhaps being greeted with deadly force by some of the less scrupulous private security guards aboard some of the merchant and fishing vessels), and the occasional tendency of some navies — Russia, South Korea and
Holland are recent examples — to deploy their commandoes to retake ships suggests a growing willingness to meet force with force.