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The most dangerous city in the world (even for sharks)

Richard Engel, NBC News chief foreign correspondent, had an in-depth video report from Mogadishu in May, calling it "the most dangerous city in the world." I guess that's also true for sharks.

Sadly, it's also still true for Somalis. According to the Associated Press today:


Heavy fighting between Islamist militants and pro-government troops raged in several parts of Somalia's capital Thursday, killing at least 21 people and wounding nearly 78, an official said.

Mortar shells pounded northern and southern neighborhoods in Mogadishu as militants launched attacks with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, according to a witness.

In Mogadishu's south, government soldiers and African Union peacekeepers tried to push insurgents back from a strategic road often used by government officials.

Ali Muse, the head of the city's ambulance service, said at least 21 had been killed and 78 wounded.

Somalia's most dangerous militant group, al-Shabab, has launched a series of attacks over the last month after declaring a "new" war against the Somali government. There are 7,100 African Union peacekeepers stationed in Mogadishu that protect the small enclave where the weak, U.N.-backed Somali government operates.

The country hasn't had a functioning government since 1991, and the militants hope to overthrow the transitional government and install a harsh brand of Islam across the country.

Now, back to sharks. The waters off of Mogadishu are often called "shark-infested," but according to a 2005 United Nations report, sharks are probably being overfished for their fins:

The shark species of interest are hammerheads (Sphyrnidae), grey sharks (Carcharhinidae) and mako (Lamnidae). They are heavily exploited by both the artisanal and the industrial fishery sectors, with associated competition. The current fishery status of these species is unknown, but they are considered to be overexploited, as catches have declined over the past few years. No research has been conducted on this matter, which deserves utmost attention, to avoid a sudden and unexpected collapse in stocks of these valuable species.

Could there be a connection between over-exploitation of the Somali fishery, the near-collapse of the Somal government and the risk to the international community posed by piracy and terrorism? According to some commentators and Somali pirates, the answer is "yes." An imprisoned Somali pirate named Farah Ismail Eid told McClatchy Newspapers reporter Shashank Bengali so in 2009:

Eid related what amounts to the pirates' creation myth, in which overfishing by European and Asian trawlers drove Somalia's coastal communities to ruin and forced local fishermen to fight for their livelihoods.

"Now the international community is shouting about piracy. But long before this, we were shouting to the world about our problems," said Eid, a bony-cheeked former lobsterman with a bushy goatee. "No one listened."

You can read more here, including some sceptical responses to the pirate's claim. The New York Times' Jeffrey Gettleman heard a similar story from Somali pirates in 2008, and some observers, like environmental blogger Brian Merchant, writing for Treehugger, explictly claim that "Overfishing Almost Got Capt. Phillips Killed by Pirates."