Archive of Dec 2008

World Politics Review: Kenya Strikes Legal Blow against Piracy

Kenya won a quiet but significant victory over Somali pirates (pictured) that have waged a devastating campaign against its maritime economy when a judge at the Mombasa federal court formally charged eight Somali pirates with felonies under Kenyan law on Dec. 11. The eight men were captured by the British Royal Navy in November while [...]

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World Politics Review: Somalia Fighting Threatens Food Deliveries

In November, the port of Merka in southern Somalia, previously held by the U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) alliance, was captured without a fight by soldiers of the rival Islamic Courts Union (ICU). In the aftermath of Merka’s fall, the U.N. worried that the ICU might halt aid shipments to the starving country. Those fears [...]


Axe vs. Pirates: Leg One Complete

After three weeks talking to victims of Somali piracy, I’m done in Mombasa, Kenya. Next phase of “Axe vs. Pirates” commences in a couple months, when I head out to West Africa to observe U.S. Navy maritime security training. Phase three, an embark with U.S. forces in the Gulf of Aden, is still pending, but [...]

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Somali President: Out!

Abdullahi Yusuf, president of the Somali “Transitional Federal Government,” has quit under pressure from the more moderate Prime Minister Nur Hussein Hassan. Funny thing is, just last week Yusuf’s people denied anything was wrong. Yusuf was seen as an obstacle to the TFG signing a peace agreement with moderate Islamists. The U.S.- and U.N.-back peace [...]


Axe vs. Pirates: Convoy!

Two Sundays ago the new European Union naval force deployed to East African waters escorted its first food ship to Somalia from this sweltering port town. The two-day dash by the MV Semlow and the HMS Northumberland marked the beginning of a planned yearlong U.N.-E.U. effort to feed as many as 4 million Somalis. That’s [...]


Axe vs. Pirates: “I Fear No One but God”

Captain Tariq Farooqi, 51, pictured, stands on the bridge of the MV Onega I, overseeing the loading of 7,000 tons of food and cooking oil into her cavernous hold. It’s a hot day in Mombasa, as cargo handlers and Onega’s 22-man crew prepare the vessel for her Tuesday run from here to Mogadishu, delivering her [...]


Merry Christmas, Afghanistan

“The Son of God came to us, accompanied by the bright lights of the stars, closing in on Bethlehem,” Dutch Major General Mart de Kruif told NATO troops in Kandahar: That little baby taught us during his life on earth that love is stronger than hate, respect more powerful than discrimination and hope superior to [...]


Not-So-Merry Christmas for Iraq’s Christians

It was already late on Christmas Day, 2005, in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, pictured, when my friend Luqman Khadir, an ethnic Kurd and non-practicing Muslim, passed along a surprising invitation. A fellow Kurd, one of Iraq’s increasingly rare Christians, had asked Luqman whether I’d like to spend a few hours celebrating the holidays [...]

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Chinese Seafarers Kick Pirate Ass

The Chinese Navy has decided to send warships to help combat piracy off the Somali coast. Chinese fishing vessels and freighters have been hard hit by this year’s spike in piracy. The Chinese deployment, which the U.S. welcomes as a chance to increase cooperation with Beijing, will take weeks to organize and travel the distance [...]


World Politics Review: Kenyan Navy Fires Rhetorical Broadside against Pirates

The top Kenyan army officer staged a dramatic press conference in this port town on Monday, intending to strike fear in the hearts of Somali pirates that have waged an escalating war on shipping in African waters. “Any attempt to commit any act of piracy within Kenya will be resisted very strongly,” Gen. Jeremiah Kianga, [...]


Axe vs. Pirates: Everyday Kenyans Suffering Effects of Somali Piracy

When the giant cruise ships pull into Mombasa’s harbor and disgorge hundreds of Western tourists, souvenir vendors are there on the pier to greet them. The vendors’ curios — carvings of animals and wooden utensils — sell for $10 or more in a city where many workers earn just a few dollars per day. John [...]


Don’t Go to Somalia

Last year I went to Somalia. All the journalists I talked to before leaving said it was a bad idea, and I would die. I didn’t die. That was then. This is now. Somalia has gotten so much worse in just the past year that now I’m the one telling other journalists not to go. [...]