American Surf Journalist Kidnapped by Somali Pirates
On January 6th, 2012 Michael Scott Moore, an American surf journalist from Manhattan Beach, California set out to research piracy in Somalia. A book on piracy was something Moore was interested in doing since first visiting the country in 2008. Knowing the dangers of being a western journalist in the country while visiting during the years previous, Moore came back to the region after meeting a former central Somalia resident while living as a German citizen in Berlin.
Michael is a 1987 graduate of Mira Costa High School and his best known for his literary books Too Much of Nothing and his surfing history book Sweetness and Blood, a story about surfing sub-culture that was named book of the year by the Economist 2010. Moore has also written numerous articles for the Los Angeles Times, Spiegel Online, Slate, Pacific Standard, and the Atlantic Monthly. Moore also previously worked as a theater critic for SF Weekly.
In a June 2010 interview with the New York Times, Moore touched base with some of the details about his book on piracy. “I went to Africa late last year to write a series of articles about Somali pirates. A book about piracy has the same appeal to me as the surf book – it has the same clash between hard fact and clichéd mythology. It would also involve a great deal of travel.”
Somalia Report is a leading source of news coverage in Somalia created by Robert Young Pelton, host of television show “The World’s Most Dangerous Places” and Contributing Editor at National Geographic Adventure. Pelton has appeared on every major news station in the country because of his keen sense of survival style journalism. Pelton himself has been kidnapped, detained and attacked while on assignment in numerous parts of the world’s scariest places. Somehow he manages to come back alive and bring home unforgettable interviews such as the exclusive CNN interview on American Taliban member, John Walker Lindh. To the right is a picture of Moore last seen on May 18th, 2012.
Pelton says that two weeks into Moore’s trip, he was scheduled to take a flight to Nairobi via Mogadishu when en route to the airport he was kidnapped in Galkayo by 15 men in two SUVs who were government-provided security guards that secretly conspired with pirates to take Moore hostage.
Two days after Moore was kidnapped, Somali leader Mohamed Ahmed Alim tried to negotiate with the captives but they would not discuss his release until a ransom was paid. Moore is currently being held for ransom for 20 million dollars to be paid by American or German governments. Moore is also amongst two other captives Songorrie Marc and Rolly Tambara and the crew of the ship Aride, which was hijacked off the Seychelles.
On January 25th 2012 one week after Michael was kidnapped, U.S. Special Operations troops in nearby Camp Lemonnier locked down the town of Galkayo after planning a rescue mission weeks in advance for two DDG workers that were previously kidnapped in the same region under similar fashion.
The Rescue Mission
U.S. Navy Seal Team 6 gathered Intel using phone intercepts, surveillance and visual confirmation and High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) jumps from the sky which silently executed all nine kidnappers. Just so there were no surprises each armed kidnapper either sleeping or awake was killed using double tap shooting techniques which is when two well-aimed shots are fired at a single target with very little time in between, the latter being the kill shot. These highly trained tactics helped in the 3:30am blacked out rescue mission and resulted in the successful rescue of American Jessica Buchanan age 32 and Danish citizen Dane Poul Thisted age 60 of the Danish Demining Group (DDG). The two hostages were lifted back onto a nearby waiting helicopter. There was not enough time to locate or include Moore in the tightly coordinated and timed rescue mission. Rescuers knew that the fate of Moore would be adversely affected by the successful rescue attempt of the two hostages. U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 is the same SEAL squad that killed Osama bin Laden.
The State Department confirmed on January 26th, 2012 that a U.S. citizen was being held by Somali pirates, but they did not mention Moore’s name. In a briefing with press, spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that the State Department has been in contact with the victim’s family, as well as sources in Kenya and Somalia to investigate more about this incident. “We are concerned about this individual’s safety and well-being.”
After local leaders tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with is abductors, Moore was relocated several times throughout the region said Robert Young Pelton of Somalia Report. Pelton and Somalia Report have been checking on Moore’s health since he has been kidnapped and continues to have an open door policy with the pirates to send photos, videos and or any news pertaining to Michael Scott Moore and his health.
Last seen in a video made by his abductors on May 18th, 2012 and sent to Somalia Report two days later on May 20th Moore states “I’m afraid I am terrified” “If there’s no answer about payment of the ransom within three days then the kidnappers here will sell me to Al-Shabaab.” “I have not eaten anything in two days.” “I feel weak and that I been here too long.”
Currently as of late September sources in the region say he has not been sold to Al-Shabaab and is being held hostage in Wisil near Hobyo in Somalia’s Mudug region by pirate leader Ali Duulaaye but is on the move between ships and land. The villages are small and controlled by pirate groups. Ali Duulaaye seems to be a little frightened that U.S. Special Operations might do a similar rescue or that other neighboring pirate groups may try capturing his prisoner for ransom for themselves.
According to Somalia Report the German media company Der Spiegel which Moore was possibly on assignment for began to withdraw any relationship with Moore. Emails were sent to Somalia Report and other publications demanding that they cease any coverage of his kidnap. Moore’s blog has been shut down and all of Moore’s articles on Somalia dating to 2008 have been removed.
It’s not a pretty sight to see the Jolly Roger flag out of the SUV of Somali pirates that drive on land to transport their hostages to and fro between ship and village. This is truly a modern day pirate battle hushed and censored from the media. Big media corporations and publications have all tried to hush this story and not for good cause. What you don’t know is that media corporation strategies are only set in place to protect their assets and liability rather than insuring a speedy release of hostages. What they will tell you is that the news embargo has its roots in protecting our own, but apparently, in situations like this, news attention can drive up ransom prices with a related mortality consequence. But if you do a simple Google search on Michael Scott Moore, there are several brief articles on Moore’s kidnapping from CBS, KTLA, SLATE, The Huffington Post and the L.A. Times.
According to Somalia Report these censorship and blackouts on stories such as Moore’s have only extended the time held in captivity for hostages from 30 days in 2008 to 6 months in 2012. Everything and everyone has their own agenda. Mine is to get the truth out in a timely fashion…especially to the surfing community. Just like Moore seeking out his story on pirates…I too feel a sense of clash between hard fact and clichéd mythology surrounding Moore’s kidnapping.