"I'm a successful Somali pirate" - Yassin's story

Mon Jan 19, 2009 10:21am GMT

GAROWE, Somalia Jan 19 (Reuters) - Yassin Dheere is a 39-year-old Somali who took to piracy five years ago and has made a fortune from the mushrooming business.

A hulk of a man, Dheere towered over his bodyguards as he spoke to Reuters in Garowe, capital of the northern Puntland province.

Dressed in expensive-looking traditional robes, he chewed khat leaves and stroked an AK-47 rifle as he told his story, starting with his birth in a notorious pirates' haven on the coast.

"I was born in Eyl town and I used to be a fisherman.

"I was forced to hijack foreign ships after the central government collapsed. No one was monitoring the sea, and we couldn't fish properly, because the ships which trawl the Somali coasts illegally would destroy our small boats and equipment. That is what forced us to become pirates.

"The first time I was involved in hijacking a ship was 2003. It must have been Arabian, there were 18 Yemeni crew. It was a big fishing ship that destroyed our boats several times.

"We surrounded it with our boats and seized it at gunpoint at night. We did not know these modern methods of using hooks and ladders, so we got near with our boats and climbed on.

"We held it for two weeks, then some Somali and Arab mediators stepped in to negotiate. We were convinced to take $50,000 as compensation. Gosh! This was a huge amount for us. That inspired us and gave us an appetite for hunting ships.

"At that time we had no idea what we were doing, we were very worried about what would happen. Two of my friends backed out because they were afraid.   Continued...

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