Michael Scott Moore Freed

Surf journalist set free after nearly three years held hostage by Somali pirates

Michael Scott Moore, captive in Somalia. Photo: Diplomat.So
Michael Scott Moore, captive in Somalia. Photo: Diplomat.So

American journalist Michael Scott Moore, best known in the surf world for his 2011 book Sweetness and Blood, was released by his kidnappers Tuesday after being held ransom for almost three years. Moore was in Somalia conducting research for a book on piracy. On January 21, 2012, Moore was captured by a group of armed men as he made his way to the airport en route to a flight to Kenya. His captors immediately took him into hiding in the port town of Hobyo where they spent a few days settling on a ransom demand before alerting the international press.

Just four days after Moore was kidnapped, U.S. Navy SEALs parachuted into Somalia only a couple hundred miles away from Hobyo and, after a brief nighttime firefight, freed two aid workers who’d been taken hostage a few weeks earlier. While the aid worker’s ordeal was over, Moore’s was just getting started. What’s worse, immediately after the SEAL’s skirmish, Moore’s captors announced a $10 million ransom, inflated in response to the nearby raid. Moore was also put under tighter security and repeatedly moved to remote, pirate-held strongholds.

For nearly three years, Moore endured captivity, with the occasional proof-of-life photo sent out into the Internet wilds by his pirate kidnappers. American media sources rarely covered the ongoing Moore captivity, ostensibly out of concern that any attention paid to pirate captors would increase ransom demands and the frequency of kidnappings. The group responsible for his captivity has never been definitively identified, nor were the immediate details of his release. It’s assumed that a ransom was paid, but if so, how much and who paid it has yet to be confirmed.

Moore’s longtime employer, the German news organization Der Spiegel, confirmed on Tuesday that Moore had been freed, and that he’d been flown to the Somalian capital of Mogadishu for medical and mental checkups, though early reports indicate that Moore’s doing just fine. “We never gave up hope and are now rejoicing with Michael and his family,” said Der Spiegel Editor-in-Chief Wolfgang Büchner. “This nightmare has finally come to an end.”