Monday, 15 November 2010

Getting out

So the Chandlers have been released after 388 days of captivity. The exact mechanism of their release is being kept secret by the organisers to deter other kidnappers, but the general feeling is about $1m was raised by public appeal, plus a contribution from the Somali government such as it is. This contribution bought the Mogadishu government some "Chandler time" and the Chandlers were obliged to visit the presidential palace for PR reasons. The money was handed over via "tribal elders" and the Chandlers were let go.

A legal super-injunction taken out by the family prevented the media from covering the negotiations with the kidnappers because every time progress was made the kidnappers raised their expectations.

The British government doesn't pay ransoms for its citizens. That's its firm position. Other Western governments do. However, let's not forget that the British also did not negotiate with terrorists, until that is, a peace deal was done with the IRA and it turned out they had been negotiating with them all along. "We do not pay ransoms," is the obvious public position. What happens behind the scenes is likely a completely different story. Quite possibly a lot of public money went into that ransom.

The original response to the kidnapping was bungled by the government. We now know that the Chandlers were taken from their boat under the nose of a British warship. The decision was taken not to intervene in case the Chandlers were hurt. The rightness of this decision can be debated, but we should never have got to the point where Somali pirates feel comfortable operating a few yards away from a warship.

Within a few hours of the kidnapping a team from the Special Boat Service (possibly the mysterious, newly-formed X squadron), based in Poole, Dorset, were in the area and preparing to mount a rescue. At this time the Chandlers were in a known location, on one of the pirated ships. However this rescue was vetoed by London and the Chandlers were then moved to the Somali mainland, to an unknown location and rescue became impossible.

Thus the protracted 388 day ordeal began.

Any sort of punitive military action is hampered by the fact that the Somalis still have several hundred other hostages, mainly the crews of pirated ships, and the exact location of the kidnapping village (these are tribal endeavours) is unknown. What is clear is that the navy must reclaim control of the seas in the area. This means attacking pirate boats BEFORE they actually attempt an act of piracy. Speed boats out at sea for no obvious purpose must be stopped and searched and confiscated if weapons are found. The crews can be returned to dry land with nothing but the clothes they stand up in. Any boat resisting or refusing to stop should be fired on. The harbours where these speed boats congregate should be shelled.

In short the pirates should be driven back onto land.

Meanwhile in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi has been released after 15 years of house arrest. It remains to be seen what effect this will have on Burmese politics.


Cricket Man said...

I agree. whilst I am ahppy for them that they are now free, its clear some 'deals' were done, most likly invloving our money. The government accepts that soldiers get killed for the greater good,so too this family, for all our benefit.
Its hard but we should not condone deals done, it puts a lot more people at risk.
I also agree that international action must be taken to push the pirates back. Firm, aggressive action. There is no reason to be out there in a speedboat. Warn them then take action and make the seas a safer place.

Anonymous said...

> and the exact location of the kidnapping village (these are tribal endeavours) is unknown.

From the BBC...

> they were being held captive in Adado, central Somalia.

This is close enough we should level that area and all the scum in it.