ABC News' Sonia Gallego sat down with the British Daily Telegraph's senior foreign correspondent, Colin Freeman, who was once a victim of a kidnapping in Somalia. Freeman describes his experience in this interview, in light of the recent rescue of a U.S. mariner off the Somali coast.
Sonia Gallego: We've heard a lot about the success story of this particular rescue but the fact of the matter is that this year alone there have been numerous attacks on vessels just off the coast of Somalia with several successful hijackings. Doesn't it seem that the international community is failing to get this under control?
Colin Freeman: It does in a way; the basic fact is that it is a very difficult area to police. You are talking about a vast stretch of ocean more than a million kilometers [about 620,000 miles] and at the moment they have a dozen naval ships patrolling that area, and even if you had one hundred or two hundred it would really be quite hard for effective policing to be done simply because the area is so large.
Gallego: To get to the root of piracy, don't you have to tackle security issues in Somalia itself?
Freeman: That is what most people seem to say, yes ... at the moment you have a large number of towns and ports along the Somali coastline which are being used for piracy and, while we talk about lawless seas, what you are really talking about is lawless land. Every pirate vessel needs somewhere to go to refuel from and to operate out of and take their ill gotten gains to and until something is done to bring those places under some law and order, this problem will probably continue.
Gallego: You yourself have been kidnapped and held hostage in Somalia while reporting on piracy. Did that experience change your understanding of the issue?
Freeman: You realize how organized they are; we were held in the caves and the mountains in northern Somalia for six weeks by a gang of between 25 to 50 guys and during the day there was always between 10 to 15, 20 guarding us. I never saw a single argument between them the whole time. When they are united in what they are doing, they are pretty well organized... fearsomely so.
Freeman: We are not sure in our case. We were on land and we were just taken because we were there. Certainly, when you are talking about people at sea, it does seem like it is primarily the crews that they are after, opposed to the cargo. It is kind of opposite to the old days where the cargo would be taken and the crew would be of lesser interest.
Gallego: Tell us a bit about the experience.
Freeman: It was manageable, we were well treated in general, most of the time. As you can imagine it is a frightening experience, mainly because you don't know what is going to happen. We had a couple of occasions when the pirates became aggressive to us for various reasons, often it wasn't explained to us why and you are always concerned that you are going to be the unlucky party or people where it all went wrong, where the pirates decide to kill you or they panicked and decided to do something unpleasant to you; and it is that fear of the unknown that dogs you every minute of the day ... most of the people of these ships will be going through that, as well.
Gallego: What could you make out about your kidnappers?