Both the LA Times and the NY Times have fascinating articles this morning on the booming pirate economy in northern Somalia. Included are some rather jaw-dropping quotations.

How easy is it to become a pirate?

“All you need is three guys and a little boat, and the next day you’re millionaires,” said Abdullahi Omar Qawden, a former captain in Somalia’s long-defunct navy.

What brings the pirates together?

“We are just a group of people with a common interest in making money,” said Sugule Ali, a spokesman for the pirates.

How do they deal with questions of legality?

When one young thug complains that a $5,000 deduction for disobeying an order is “illegal,” the old man snaps back: “Even the $15,000 you are getting is illegal! It’s all stolen!”

Where does the money go?

“Believe me, a lot of our money has gone straight into the government’s pockets,” said Farah Ismail Eid, a pirate who was captured in nearby Berbera and sentenced to 15 years in jail.

How effective has the NATO force surrounding the hijacked Ukrainian ship been?

“The ships roam around us every two to three hours and helicopters come close to see what is going on inside the ship,” said Sugule Ali, a spokesman for the pirates.

(Hint: they should go after the pirates’ “mother ships.”)

And how tough is it to compete with the pirates’ notorious sex appeal?

“Women here don’t talk to you if you are not a pirate,” said Suleiman Farey, 21, a recent high-school graduate. “I’m fed up with these guys.”

The international community is, too, Suleiman.

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