A masked Somali pirate stands near a Taiwanese fishing vessel. (AP/Farah Abdi Warsameh)
The pirating business apparently isn’t what it used to be. In fact, one dreaded Somali pirate has decided to put an end to his kidnappings and ransacking.
At a press conference—possibly the first to be held by a retiring pirate—Mohamed Abdi Hassan, known as "Afweyne" or "big mouth," told reporters on Wednesday that after eight successful years in the business, he’s through.
"After being in piracy for eight years, I have decided to renounce and quit, and from today on I will not be involved in this gang activity," Hassan said, speaking in Adado, a central Somalia town known as a pirate haven.
The king-pin pirate was described by the United Nations as "one of the most notorious and influential leaders." The New York Times described his arrival on the scene as bringing a “new sophistication” to the business, noting, “Afweyne raised venture capital for his pirate operations as if he were launching a Wall Street I.P.O.”
And business was good: Hassan’s men were reportedly involved in seizing a Ukrainian transport ship in 2009 carrying 33 men and Soviet-era tanks, which was finally released after 134 days and a ransom payment of $3 million. The pirate was also reportedly involved in the capture of a 2008 Saudi-owned Sirius Star supertanker, also released after a ransom of several million dollars was paid.
But hauls like that are rare now. Last year marked the lowest incidence of pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia in recent times: The seas are now patrolled by navies, and ships traveling on the Indian Ocean now use armed guards.
So, Hassan is getting out. And he’s trying to persuade other pirates to join him. “I have also been encouraging many of my colleagues to renounce piracy, too," he said at the press conference, "and they have done it.”