By Frank James
Call it the case of the missing African pirates.
Last week after a Russian oil tanker was seized by 11 pirates thought to be Somali though no one appears to know their nationality for sure, Russian commandos stormed the ship, killing one of the bad guys and regaining control.
Russian officials claimed they considered bringing the pirates to Moscow for trial but decided not to because of the uncertainties of international law.
So the Russians say they placed the pirates in a boat without weapons and after taking away the pirates navigation equipment cut the small boat loose. While removing the weapons makes sense to many people, leaving the pirates at sea without navigation equipment strikes some as senseless. Even Captain William Bligh of the Bounty got to keep a sextant.
Now the Russians say they're pretty sure all the pirates died, having disappeared off radar screens about an hour after they were cut loose.
It's fair to wonder, however, about what exactly happened since the Russian President Dmitri Medvedev recently indicated that maximum punishment would be meted out by the Russian navy in dealing with pirates.
"We will have to act as our forefathers did when they met pirates. Of course, we will fight pirates with the full force of the naval law."
Not encouraging words if you're a pirate.
Meanwhile, Somali pirates promise revenge for the Russian action.
From The Wall Street Journal:
Fellow pirates in Somalia also said they lost contact with the boat after their separation from the Russian warship. "We will hold Russia responsible if any harm comes to them," said a pirate commander, Abdi Dhagaweyne, in a telephone interview. "I'm not sure of their safety now because we have since lost contact."