Somali pirate "Big Mouth" and associate announce retirement, beseech world "to stop hunting us"
LONDON Piracy has always been a tough gig.
This week, a veteran of the high seas -- who stole and extorted millions during Somali piracy's golden era -- announced that he's had enough, and he is now working with the nation's government to end the "dirty business".
Mohamed Abdi Hassan, nickname "Big Mouth," said Thursday that he and some of his colleagues, "with very good sense decided to fully give up the long-running activity."
He and his men were among hundreds of mostly young Somalis who've taken to the seas and shipping channels off eastern Africa since 1991 in search of an income, as internal conflict left the country's central government unable to provide security or opportunity for the masses.
Pirate attacks are now at a three year low, however, thanks to a dramatically stepped-up, international naval partnership which patrols hundreds of miles of sea off Somalia's coast.
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"We decided to give it up. We have been in it for a long time," Big Mouth's fellow retiree, Mohamed Gaada-yar, said at the news conference. "We firstly need the world to stop looting us, as we gave up piracy. Secondly, we need the world to stop hunting us."
Last year, a United Nations group tasked with monitoring the pirate problem called "Big Mouth" one of the most influential figures in Somalia's pirating scene.
He and his men were reportedly involved in the hijack of a Ukrainian ship carrying dozens of Soviet tanks in 2009 -- released after about four months for as much as $3 million.
A year before that, Hassan's group was reportedly linked to the capture of the supertanker Sirius Star -- also eventually handed over for about $3 million.
But that's all behind Big Mouth now, he says.
"We have been in negotiations with the former government, with Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed (former Somali president), regarding the way we can easily get rid of this dirty business," the Associated Press quoted Hassan as saying Thursday in the central town of Adabo.
Gaada-yar, Hassan's colleague at the news conference, said they were now involved in a government effort to warn Somalia's youth against a life on the high seas.
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