“We don’t see hijacking as a criminal act,” says Asad “Booyah” Abdulahi, “but as a road tax because we have no central government to control our sea.” Unable to afford college, and unable to get another job thanks to the government’s collapse, Abdulahi began his career as a fisherman, he tells the Guardian, but soon turned to hijacking the foreign fishing vessels that plagued the waters.
Back then, foreign boats ran roughshod. “They would destroy our boats and force us to flee for our lives,” Abdulahi says. His pirate crew is more kind. “We make friends with the hostages,” he says. “We want only money, not to kill them.” He has captured some 60 ships, especially targeting European vessels, which fetch princely ransoms. “We consider ourselves heroes,” Abdulahi says. “We will not stop until we have a central government that can control our sea.”