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Somali pirates coverage shows their human side

In an excellent report, NYT journalist CJ Chivers portrays Somali pirates up-close-and-personal.
Somalia news pirate resue cj chivers 2012 1 9Enlarge
The guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100) responds to a distress call from the master of the Iranian-flagged fishing dhow Al Molai, who claimed he was being held captive by pirates. Kidd's visit, board, search and seizure team, boarded and detained 15 suspected pirates, who were reportedly holding the 13-member Iranian crew hostage for the last two months. Kidd is conducting counter-piracy and maritime security operations while deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Every now and again (but hopefully not too often) while working as a journalist you look at the work of others and have a how-did-they-do-that?! moment.

This weekend's New York Times contained one in CJ Chivers' report on the brilliantly international event that was the rescue of the crew of an Iranian fishing boat from the clutches of Somali pirates by US marines in the Gulf.

The first thing to stop you in your tracks are the photos by Tyler Hicks which show Somali pirates up-close-and-personal, ragged and forlorn not simply standing on a beach with a gun looking remote and faintly scary.

The way Hicks portrays them they actually seem human, which is a rare thing to achieve when photographing modern day bogeymen.

And then there's the killer dateline, the bit that tells you where the story was reported: "Aboard the fishing vessel Al Mulahi in the Gulf of Oman" is pretty much impossible to top.

Not to seem superficial the story that follows is of course excellent. In depth and full of detail. Here's how it starts:

Read more on GlobalPost: Somali pirate hijacking continues

"Late on Thursday afternoon, as the American destroyer Kidd loomed alongside this hijacked Iranian dhow, the warship’s loudspeaker issued a command in Urdu to the dhow’s frightened Urdu-speaking crew. American sailors stood ready, weapons in hand. If you have weapons aboard, the voice boomed, put them where we can see them, on the roof of your wheelhouse.

Fifteen Somali pirates were also on board Al Mulahi, crouched and cornered on the very vessel they had seized in November to use as their mother ship. They had knives, a pistol and four assault rifles. But they did not speak Urdu. For a moment, the captors depended on their captives. They asked their Iranian hostages what the American sailors had just said.

One of the hostages, Khaled Abdulkhaled, answered without pause:
'They said they are about to blow this ship up.'

The pirates panicked. Their unity broke down. Each man hoped, variously, to surrender, find cover or hide. Discarding their weapons, nine of them crammed into a small hold beneath the wheelhouse. Six more huddled near the open bow."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/africa-emerges/somalia-news