Danger at Sea: When Pirates Become Islamists

When do pirates become hardcore Islamists? Very soon. At least that is what I predicted a few weeks back on PajamasTV, discussing the situation off the coast of Somalia with PJTV host Bill Whittle and fellow commentator and military strategist Austin Bay.

The best unfortunate model of how pirates become jihadists is Abu Sayyaf -- the State Department-designated terror organization in the Philippines. Decades ago, Abu Sayyaf was called the Moro National Liberation Front -- a regional band of violent Muslims who wanted to separate from the predominately Catholic Philippines. Enter the jihadists from Afghanistan with the idea of dying by the sword. Abu Sayyaf began blowing up ferries and kidnapping and beheading people in the name of global jihad.

The situation in Somalia is heading in that same direction. The crisis there has continued to deteriorate all month, with fighters from the terrorist organization al-Shabaab gaining control of town after town. "They're expanding their reach," Jennifer Cooke, head of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told the Voice of America. With this reach comes al-Qaeda's ideology. "They've seized a number of key port towns -- Merka, Kismayo -- and are really driving the chaos that is engulfing Mogadishu at this point."

As soon as the jihadists seize Eyl the situation will become drastic for the fate of the hostages held there. Eyl is pirate central, the port city where the crews and their ships -- including a Ukrainian cargo vessel laden with arms and a Saudi supertanker with two million barrels of crude oil on board -- are being held. If the pirates come under the al-Shabaab sway, they will likely shift from wanting booty to wanting blood. This is the way of the jihadist's sword.

On Tuesday, the United Nations is holding a meeting on piracy. A draft resolution has been circulating among members, one which proposes to allow countries to chase pirates onto Somali soil. But the commander of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, told the Associated Press this was a bad idea because civilian casualties "cannot be overestimated."