Somali pirates transform villages into boomtowns

Somalia’s increasingly brazen pirates are building sprawling stone houses, cruising in luxury cars, marrying beautiful women — even hiring caterers to prepare Western-style food for their hostages.

And in an impoverished country where every public institution has crumbled, they have become heroes in the steamy coastal dens they operate from because they are the only real business in town.

By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN and ELIZABETH KENNEDY, Associated Press Writers

“The pirates depend on us, and we benefit from them,” said Sahra Sheik Dahir, a shop owner in Haradhere, the nearest village to where a hijacked Saudi Arabian supertanker carrying $100 million in crude was anchored Wednesday.

These boomtowns are all the more shocking in light of Somalia’s violence and poverty: Radical Islamists control most of the country’s south, meting out lashings and stonings for accused criminals. There has been no effective central government in nearly 20 years, plunging this arid African country into chaos.

Some of the eight suspected Somali pirates when they appeared ... 
Some of the eight suspected Somali pirates when they appeared before the Mombasa Chief Magistrate Catherine Mwangi , Wednesday, Nov.19 ,.2008 to be charged for piracy. The pirates were not immediately charged as their charged had not been prepared. The suspects were returned to the cells awaiting to be charged ..In an impoverished country where nearly every public institution has crumbled, pirates have transformed local economies in pirate dens like Haradhere and Eyl in northern Somalia, pumping money into areas where there had been little more than fishmongers and women selling magoes by the seashore for the past 20 years.(AP Photo)

Life expectancy is just 46 years; a quarter of children die before they reach 5.

But in northern coastal towns like Haradhere, Eyl and Bossaso, the pirate economy is thriving thanks to the money pouring in from pirate ransoms that have reached $30 million this year alone.

“There are more shops and business is booming because of the piracy,” said Sugule Dahir, who runs a clothing shop in Eyl. “Internet cafes and telephone shops have opened, and people are just happier than before.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081119/ap_on_re_af/af_pirate_
boomtown;_ylt=AhcD9m_1erjHfIxz1xm3H8Os0NUE

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