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November 12 , 2008

Blood Ransom

Stories from the Front Line in the War against Somali Piracy


For the first time in history, the navies of every superpower on the planet have united against a common enemy – a couple of thousand rag tag underfed men and boys. Crammed together in tiny open boats,they range up to a thousand miles from their home shores. Armed with ancient AK47s and rocket propelled grenades, they scour the western Indian Ocean. No-one knows how many simply die at sea. But occasionally these modern-day pirates hit the jackpot, seizing vessels and crews that will be ransomed for millions of dollars. This is a war that's estimated to cost the world economy $18 billion every year, and has so far seemed impossible to win.

John Boyle is a lawyer turned filmmaker. Whilst filming for National Geographic on the war against the Somali pirates, he found himself meeting victims on every side, and being drawn into the incredibly complex situation. The phenomenon of modern-day piracy has horrified the world; the Somalis being demonised and released hostages gaining near celebrity status. But few people have any understanding of the overall picture, and in this book John takes us with him on his investigation, giving us a unique insight into the ongoing war.

John builds up the story using his experiences on the ground and interviews with key figures from Presidents to pirates. He spent a week in an African hilltop prison interviewing pirates both convicted and awaiting trial, as well as hearing the other side of the story from former hostages. Other interviewees included a President on the front line of the war against piracy, politicians, a UN Security Council Ambassador, a hostage negotiator, prosecuting and defence lawyers, and a freelance security gun for hire. He went on patrol with the international naval force, local coastguards and air patrols; and visited the very heart of the EU Naval Force's operation. And he spent time on board a fishing trawler that had already been twice attacked by pirates and a Maersk container ship identical to that in the Captain Phillips story.

Each chapter strips back the well-known issues to the gritty realities underneath them: Somalia's recent history; why young men and boys are choosing to risk their lives and freedom at sea; the reality of being a modern-day pirate; the tactics and technologies being used by the international navies and shipping vessels; capture and trial; and what happens next.
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