From The New York Review of Books, an overview of the bleak Somali pirate situation.
There's no doubt that in Somalia, crime pays-it's about the only industry that does. There is even a functioning pirate stock exchange in Xarardheere, where locals buy "shares" in seventy-two individual pirate "companies" and get a respectable return if the company is successful. Most of the money, though, is frittered away. Boyah, who personally has made hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions, asked me for cigarettes when I met him. When I asked what happened to all his cash, he explained: "When someone who never had money suddenly gets money, it just goes." He also said that because of the extended network of relatives and clansmen, "it's not like three people split a million bucks. It's more like three hundred."
The pirates used to be fisherman who moved from defending their fishing territory by boarding foreign ships to collect "fines" to more lucrative full-blown piracy. (thx, tom)
Somali pirates run their business pretty much like everyone else does.
To be eligible for employment as a pirate, a volunteer should already possess a firearm for use in the operation. For this 'contribution', he receives a 'class A' share of any profit. Pirates who provide a skiff or a heavier firearm, like an RPG or a general purpose machine gun, may be entitled to an additional A-share. The first pirate to board a vessel may also be entitled to an extra A-share.
Omar Hammami was a fairly normal kid from a small town in Alabama -- "as a teenager, his passions veered between Shakespeare and Kurt Cobain, soccer and Nintendo" -- who is now in Somalia, leading terrorist attacks for a group called Shabab, which is loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda.
In the three years since Hammami made his way to Somalia, his ascent into the Shabab's leadership has put him in a class of his own, according to United States law-enforcement and intelligence officials. While other American terror suspects have drawn greater publicity, Hammami exercises a more powerful role, commanding guerrilla forces in the field, organizing attacks and plotting strategy with Qaeda operatives, the officials said. He has also emerged as something of a jihadist icon, starring in a recruitment campaign that has helped draw hundreds of foreign fighters to Somalia. "To have an American citizen that has risen to this kind of a rank in a terrorist organization - we have not seen that before," a senior American law-enforcement official said earlier this month.
See also a New Yorker article about Adam Gadahn, an American who is now a member of Al Qaeda.