26 Hostages Freed in Somalia

The men from the Naham 3 are all friends of mine — a crew of 26 sailors from southeast Asia who worked on a tuna long-liner flagged in Oman but owned by a company in Taiwan, which abandoned them after Somali pirates hijacked the ship in 2012. By then pirates in central Somalia had captured me, and I suppose to save money they placed me on the ship for 5 months. I’ve kept quiet about this phase of my captivity, but now, two years after my release, the men are free. I went to Nairobi this week to see them. CNN interviewed a couple of us there (see below).

They weren’t fishing illegally. Somali pirates complain about rapacious fishing by foreign trawlers, but the Naham 3 was a long-liner — not a trawler, as reported in certain magazines — fishing outside Somali territorial waters as well as Somalia’s EEZ. It was an industrial ship, but not an illegal one. If Somalia had a working navy, rather than corruption in Mogadishu and a rash of pirates, these men would not have been captured.

Twenty-six freed hostages isn’t enough — the ship had an original crew of 29. Pirates shot the captain dead when they boarded. Two crewmen I knew in 2012 died of unnamed diseases, and Arnel Balbero addresses their needless deaths in the video. Around 15 people are still held hostage by pirates in diferent parts of Somalia, but the release of this crew represents the end of the heyday of Somali piracy, since the Naham 3 was the last major vessel to be hijacked between 2005 and 2012. I couldn’t be more delighted.

Michael Scott Moore is a literary journalist and a novelist, author of a comic novel about L.A., Too Much of Nothing, as well as a travel book about surfing, Sweetness and Blood, which was named a best book of 2010 by The Economist and Popmatters. He was kidnapped in 2012 on a reporting trip to Somalia and held hostage for two and a half years. The Desert and the Sea, a memoir about that ordeal, is out now from HarperCollins.

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The men from the Naham 3 are all friends of mine — a crew of 26 sailors from southeast Asia who worked on a tuna long-liner flagged in Oman but owned by a company in Taiwan, which abandoned them after Somali pirates hijacked the ship in 2012.

While I was in Somalia a man called Geoff Carter wrote about a picture of Indian men surfing on stand-up boards around 1800 off Chennai, which altered the known history of surfing a bit, even though the picture was hiding in plain sight at the Australian National Maritime Museum.

Some people have asked about the Somalia memoir. It’s right on schedule, I promise, but it won’t be out for at least another year. It’s been revised in full, twice (see above), and it’ll need a few more revisions before we get anywhere. Old-fashioned authorship. July, 2018?

A version of what happened in Somalia is available as a Long Read at The Guardian, and, in somewhat shorter form, for German readers, in Der Spiegel. It’s not even near complete. Enormous parts of the story have been left untold.

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