Page last updated at 04:53 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 05:53 UK

'It's a pirate's life for me'

Somali pirates pictured on 5 November 2005

A 25-year-old Somali pirate has told the BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan by telephone from the notorious den of Harardhere in central Somalia why he became a sea bandit. Dahir Mohamed Hayeysi says he and his big-spending accomplices are seen by many as heroes.

I used to be a fisherman with a poor family that depended only on fishing.

The first day joining the pirates came into my mind was in 2006.

A group of our villagers, mainly fishermen I knew, were arming themselves.

One of them told me that they wanted to hijack ships, which he said were looting our sea resources.

'National service'

He told me it was a national service with a lot of money in the end. Then I took my gun and joined them.

Now I have two lorries, a luxury car and have started my own business in town
Dahir Mohamed Hayeysi

Years ago we used to fish a lot, enough for us to eat and sell in the markets.

Then illegal fishing and dumping of toxic wastes by foreign fishing vessels affected our livelihood, depleting the fish stocks.

I had no other choice but to join my colleagues.

The first hijack I attended was in February 2007 when we seized a World Food Programme-chartered ship with 12 crew.

I think it had the name of MV Rozen and we released it after two months, with a ransom.

One last job

I am not going to tell you how much it was, or three other hijackings I have been involved in since.

A Somali pirate on board a French yacht on 10 April 2009
Pirates have stepped up attacks on shipping in recent weeks

My ambition is to get a lot of money so that I can lead a better life.

Now I have two lorries, a luxury car and have started my own business in my town.

I only want one more chance in piracy to increase my cash assets, then I will get married and give up.

Piracy is not just easy money - it has many risks and difficulties.

Sometimes you spend months in the sea to hunt a ship and miss.

Sometimes when we are going to hijack a ship we face rough winds, and some of us get sick and some die.

Sometimes you fail in capturing and sometimes you come under threat by foreign navies, but all we do is venture.


Let me give you a good example.

Thousands of young desperate Somali [migrants] continue to risk their lives in the sea in search of a better life abroad.

Patrol boat checks out fishing vessel off Somalia
Dahir Mohamed Hayeysi says foreign navies will not stop piracy
So it is no surprise to see us in the same water, pirating in search of money - there is no difference.

We have local support; most of the people here depend on pirates directly or indirectly.

Because if there is a lot of money in the town they can get some through friendship, relatives or business.

Also our work is seen by many in the coastal villages as legal and we are viewed as heroes.

The only way the piracy can stop is if [Somalia] gets an effective government that can defend our fish.

And then we will disarm, give our boats to that government and will be ready to work.

Foreign navies can do nothing to stop piracy.

When first loaded, the map's focus falls on Somalia where most of the pirates are based. Use the arrow icons to scroll left towards Europe and the United States which are both playing a central role in tackling the problem.

Scroll to the right for a story about the Philippines, which supplies many of the world's mariners.

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