December 19, 2008 9:28 AM
Somalis: Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me
"...While their countrymen suffer through another political crisis and the looming threat of famine, pirates are splashing hundred-dollar bills like play money around the nowhere towns of northern Somalia .
Residents say that the pirates are building houses, buying flashy cell phones and air-conditioned SUVs, gifting friends and relatives with hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars and winning the attention of beautiful women, who seem to be flocking to pirate towns from miles around.
Shopkeepers charge the pirates a premium for food and khat -- a narcotic leaf that Somali men chew religiously -- but the buccaneers don't seem to mind.
'It is true,' said a 28-year-old pirate who identified himself as Jama. 'We are getting very rich.'
Jama, who described himself as a high-ranking member of a group based in Eyl, has earned $375,000 as a pirate, enough to buy a Toyota Land Cruiser and to begin building a six-bedroom house in Garowe, the regional capital, for his family. His biggest payday came last month, when he earned a $92,000 share of a $1.3 million ransom for a Greek ship, the MV Centauri, which was released after 10 weeks with its crew unharmed.
Almost overnight, Jama said, his standing with the fairer sex has improved dramatically.
'Once there was a girl who lived in Garowe,' 100 miles from Eyl, Jama said. 'I loved her. I tried to approach her many times, but she rejected me. But since I became a pirate, she has tried nine times to get with me.
'But I refused, because I'm already married.'"
A pirate with morals -- how touching!