Thanks to the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise, pirates have taken on a certain connotation in the American imagination, that of a somewhat goofy, not-too-bright fellow who makes us laugh and always gets the girl. Even reading about piracy in history books has dulled our senses. We know about Black Beard, Captain Kidd, and Calico Jack. But thanks to the hundreds of years that separate us from them, we forget how brutal such men could be when they waylaid unfortunate ships for their treasure.
Piracy abounds today. According to maps I found, three hotspots exist: the southern Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and off the eastern coast of Africa. Operation Peacemaker focuses on the eastern coast of Africa. These attacks bear more resemblance to the attacks a few hundred years ago than to the image projected by Pirates of Caribbean. And they can be brutal. Check out the video clip from an actual attack that happened only two weeks ago.
These are brutal and have been numerous off the Somali coast over the past several years. Here’s some examples.
- In 2008, the MY Ponant, a French yacht, was hijacked. The owner paid the ransom, and eventually, the pirates were captured on land.
- In May 2009, pirates hijacked the MV Ariana, a cargo ship. They released it after the owners paid the ransom but not before the pirates brutalized one of the crew members during the seven months they were held.
- In April 2010, Somali pirates had the gall to attack the USS Nicholas, a US Navy frigate, off the Seychelles. The frigate sunk the pirate boat and mother ship, but the incident underscores how bold the Somali pirates became during this era.
- In February 2011, pirates hijacked the S/V Quest, an American yacht, despite the nearby presence of US Navy vessels. All onboard were killed before the Navy arrived.
- The most well-known hijacking occurred with the MV Maersk Alabama in April 2009. The crew retook the ship, but only after the pirates almost absconded with Captain Phillips.
These are a few of the hundreds of attacks that occurred during the ten-year period between 2006 and 2016. Sure, thousands of ships passed off the coast of Africa during this time, but for those unfortunate ones who were hijacked, their reality suddenly became terrifying and sometimes brutal. Only recently, pirate attacks have begun occurring once more.
I set Operation Peacemaker off the coast of Somalia as a way to remind those of us who live comfortable, secure lives that piracy does exist. It also provides a good backdrop for a plot, not only one to save Tori Walters and the rest of the Peacemaker but one to emphasize how dangerous certain places of the world remain.
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