How I Survived Being Kidnapped by Somali Pirates | Op-Docs

How I Survived Being Kidnapped by Somali Pirates | Op-Docs

I was captured in
January 2012 by pirates, and held for more
than 2 and a half years. I was held in the bush. I mean, out in the open. Also, on a fishing
boat for five months on the water with
other hostages, and then alone, essentially
in a solitary confinement in a series of prison houses
in a town in Central Somalia called Galkayo. I’m American and I’m German. Two passports, yes. I arrived here in early January. Eh? January 6th, in Somalia. I have to request
from the American or the German government
the full ransom. They — they need to give an
answer within three days. And if there’s no
answer to payment of the ransom within three
days, then the kidnappers here will sell me to — will sell me to al-Shabab. Our panel tonight is
on freelancer safety. Michael Scott Moore, he’s
a Pulitzer Center grantee, a journalist, and a novelist. He also, unfortunately,
was kidnapped while reporting in Somalia
and held captive there for two years and eight months? Eight months. And eight months. But in the vein
of responsibility, and this is sort of a question
for me and for Michael, many people feel it’s our
fault, that in my case, I acted recklessly by going
to this Taliban interview, that you were reckless
for going to Somalia. And that’s a problem. And I regret my decision
to go to an interview that got me abducted. And not in terms of
your case, specifically, but do you hear
about or feel there’s a change in terms of
journalists themselves? Are people recognizing
how much more dangerous the environment is? It wasn’t totally clear
how dangerous Syria was until it became clear
how many hostages there were. And that’s one drawback to
keeping hostage cases quiet, actually, which
yours was kept quiet, mine was kept quiet while
they were still going on. And I think a lot of
the cases in Syria were kept quiet to the point
where other journalists didn’t know what they
were getting into. So slowly, just
because of the horrors that have come out of Syria,
people are, in general, are probably trying to
be a bit more careful. But that doesn’t mean
that the general culture of freelance journalism
has changed, no. Before you leave on
a trip like this, you have to think that in
the worst case scenario, you’re actually going to be
putting your family in contact with some really
unsavory people. And that haunted me in Somalia. That’s not something
I ever wanted to do. So no story is worth your life. That’s just a hard
and fast rule. And almost no story is
worth getting kidnapped for. In fact, I can’t
think of one that is. News report: "Last night, militants from
the Islamic state group released a horrific
video, showing James Foley being beheaded. It’s too graphic to show." It was around the
20th of August — I was keeping pretty good track
of the date at that point — there was news this
morning on the radio that about Jim Foley, an
American journalist who was decapitated by IS
in the Syrian desert. Horrifying. I can barely imagine what
my family is going through. Marlis Saunders: From time to time, I did
go down to the ocean and I, you know, knowing that he loved to surf. And I, you know, so
yeah, I would do that. And in the evening when
I would look at the moon, I would always think,
you know, well, he must see the same moon. And I hope, you know, he feels
that I’m thinking of him, you know, that maybe he gets
a little strength from that and to cope, cope for
another day, another week. While I was there, I thought it
would be a perfectly good idea for a Special Forces
team to come and get me, especially after I was
there for two years. I mean, I simply had
no other sense of hope because I didn’t
feel like there was any progress with negotiations. It was always hard to gauge what
was going on behind the scenes. And after a year or so, I wasn’t
sure I wanted to live anymore. So that risk of getting —
of dying during a rescue seemed a lot less intense to me. And that’s still the
official American position, is that we don’t negotiate. If anything, we rescue. And as long as you’re
not going to negotiate, you should rescue. What’s true, I think
that there were red lines that I set for myself. And a few of those I crossed. I went shopping for
insurance, and when I got rejected
shortly beforehand, I should have just
called off the trip. We’re here because 26 men that
I was held hostage with are just getting out of captivity. And actually, I’m
terribly excited. They were the
fishermen who I was held with on the
Naham 3, the fishing boat that was captured in 2012. And they’re the last
large single crew that’s being held by Somali pirates. And they’ve been in captivity
for 4 and a half years, which is extremely frustrating
because I was hoping and working for their — for their freedom as
soon as I got out. And it’s painful to think
how long they’ve been there. On the last day, a car came, and
they told me to pack my things. And they had a sack of cash that was part of a
ransom that was paid. And that particular sack
was payment for the guards, apparently. And then I realized, you know,
that what the pirates were saying was real. Before that, I was
very much on my guard. You know, I wasn’t allowed — wasn’t allowing
myself to believe them or to be hopeful
because, you know, they’d been telling
me for months that I was going to get
out in a couple of weeks or a couple of
days or something. I’d learned not to believe them. We came up with an
agreement and everything. I mean, we made our demands
when Michael would be brought and how he would be picked
up, et cetera, et cetera. And there must have
been some kind of rift because when the ransom
was being distributed, they had a big gunfight,
some of the top pirates, and — amongst each other. But luckily, Michael was
out of there by then. I landed in Nairobi and
this is the first place I felt comfortable, at
least for a little while after you get out. And it marks a
change in your life. I had my own bed, and
I had my own shower, I mean, a working shower for the
first time in 2 and a half years. And it was all mine. I could just sleep in the
bed and then take a shower when I wanted to instead
of having six guys get up with Kalashnikovs
to guard my way. When we met, his
first words were, I’m so sorry to put
you through this. So I said, well, it’s O.K. You’re free. Don’t be sorry. [shouting] I contributed money to their
release as soon as I got out and I heard they were still in
there, because there was just no other way to get them out. I could kind of tell that there
were — out of five governments, nobody was planning
any kind of a rescue. So the only way those guys were
going to get out of Somalia was going to be with money. When they all noticed that I was
there, it was just pandemonium. It was really wonderful. You know, it was obvious they
hadn’t forgotten about me, and it was really important
for me to be there to show them that I hadn’t
forgotten about them. In general, going to
crisis regions like this is still something
that has to be done. I mean, otherwise you
don’t get a clear picture of what’s going on. That’s a responsibility
the journalist has to take, and it was a complete failure
from my point of view. There will always be journalists
who take risks like this. But it’s a — you know,
I’m going to be living with the consequences for
the rest of my life of what happened. So —

25 thoughts on “How I Survived Being Kidnapped by Somali Pirates | Op-Docs

  1. Stop saying that because he put himself in danger he deserved it. Him and no one else, deserves to be kidnapped like this.

  2. Well yes it is his job but still situations occur and getting kidnapped is not something he deserves.

  3. Just imagine that only 40 years ago journalists have been invited to join rebel groups, they would be under the protection of radical terror groups and people who believed in their cause and respected that the journalists is there to tell their story, not a commodity

  4. 1% of comments: I’m so sorry for this guy, he’s been through a lot
    99% of comments: lol he deserved it he was wearing a Man U jersey

  5. The lack of logical reasoning on the part of some commentators is shocking. It is 100% not his fault for being kidnapped. It is the fault of the kidnappers and theirs alone. If he went somewhere and got stranded because of known environmental risks, then sure, he might hold some blame coupled with unfortunate luck. But in this case it is clear that it is only the fault of the kidnappers and not at all the fault of the victim.

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