You are browsing the archive for 2020 April 01.

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Somali pirates hijack Maersk Alabama ship

April 1, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

Pirates had not captured a ship sailing under the American flag since the 1820s until April 8, 2009, when the MV Maersk Alabama was hijacked off the coast of Somalia. The high-profile incident drew worldwide attention to the problem of piracy, commonly believed to be a thing of the past, in the waters off the Horn of Africa.

Decades of instability in Somalia and the accompanying lack of policing in its territorial waters led to a resurgence of piracy in the region that peaked in the late 2000s. Just a day before the attack, the Maersk Alabama received warning from the United States government to stay at least 600 miles off the coast of Somalia, but Captain Richard Phillips kept the ship about 240 miles from the coast, a decision which was later criticized by members of his crew. On April 8, the crew saw a skiff carrying four armed pirates approaching the ship and initiated the protocol for such an event. Chief Engineer Mike Perry got most of the crew to a safe room and managed to swamp the pirates’ craft by swinging his ship’s rudder, but the pirates were nonetheless able to board and take Phillips hostage. After one of their number was injured fighting with the ship’s crew, the other three pirates fled in a lifeboat, taking Phillips with them in the hopes of using him as a bargaining chip.

Early the next morning, the destroyer USS Bainbridge and another U.S. Navy vessel arrived on the scene. What followed was a three-day standoff, with the pirates holding Phillips in the lifeboat. Attempts to negotiate failed, and at one point the pirates fired (harmlessly) at the destroyer. Finally, on April 12, with authorization from recently inaugurated President Barack Obama, Navy SEAL snipers opened fire on the lifeboat. In a stunning display of accuracy, the SEALS firing from a ship’s deck through the windows of the tiny boat hit all three pirates in the head, killing them, while leaving Phillips unharmed.

The surviving pirate, Abduwali Muse, was taken into custody and later sentenced to over 33 years in U.S. prison—though he was tried as an adult, he and the other hijackers were reportedly all teenagers at the time of the attack. The incident received international attention, bringing the problem of modern-day piracy to many people’s attention for the first time. Phillips’ story was made into a movie starring Tom …read more

Source: HISTORY

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U.S. media release graphic photos of American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib

April 1, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On April 30, 2004, the CBS program 60 Minutes reports on abuse of prisoners by American military forces at Abu Ghraib, a prison in Iraq. The report, which featured graphic photographs showing U.S. military personnel torturing and abusing prisoners, shocked the American public and greatly tarnished the Bush Administration and its war in Iraq.

Amnesty International had surfaced many of the allegations in June of 2003, not long after the United States invaded Iraq and took over Abu Ghraib, which soon became the largest American prison in Iraq. As the 60 Minutes report and subsequent investigations proved, torture quickly became commonplace at Abu Ghraib. Photographs depicted American soldiers sexually assaulting detainees, threatening them with dogs, putting them on leashes and engaging in a number of other practices that clearly constituted torture and/or violations of the Geneva Convention.

In at least one instance, the Army tortured a prisoner to death. President George W. Bush assured the public that the instances of torture were isolated, but as the scandal unfolded it became clear that, in the words of an International Committee of the Red Cross official, there was a “pattern and a broad system” of abuse throughout the Department of Defense. Torture techniques, which the CIA and military often referred to as “enhanced interrogation,” had in fact been developed at sites like the Guantanamo Bay detention center and were routinely employed in Iraq, at Guantanamo, and at other “black sites” around the world.

In June of 2004, it was revealed that the Bush Administration—specifically Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo—had not only been aware of widespread torture but had secretly developed a legal defense attempting to exempt the United States from the Geneva Convention. A 2006 court decision subsequently ruled that the Geneva Convention did apply to all aspects of the “War on Terror.”

Eleven soldiers were eventually convicted by military courts of crimes committed at Abu Ghraib, while Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who had been in charge there, was merely demoted. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld apologized for the abuses, but Bush did not accept Rumsfeld’s offer to resign. Yoo went on to teach at Berkeley Law and is a Visiting Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In the years after the revelations, legal scholars have repeatedly suggested that Bush, Rumsfeld and soldiers who carried out the abuses at Abu Ghraib could be prosecuted for war …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Big Ben stops at 12:11 pm for 54 minutes

April 1, 2020 in History

By History.com Editors

On April 30, 1997, at exactly 12:11 pm, London’s iconic Big Ben clock stops ticking. For 54 minutes, the most famous clock in the world failed to keep time.

Completed in 1859, Big Ben has a long history of technical issues. The first bell cast for the tower cracked before it could be installed, and the second bell also developed a crack shortly after installation, resulting in silence from the tower until 1862. The bells stopped ringing again during World War I, and the tower was not illuminated at night for the duration of World War II, when most of London was kept dark to make German bombing more raids difficult. Despite the heavy damage that the Blitz inflicted on London, however, the clock stayed within a second and a half of GMT for the duration of the war.

Since then, both extreme heat and the buildup of snow have caused Big Ben to stop ticking. In 1962, snow delayed the bells, causing the capital of Britain to ring in the new year ten minutes later than the rest of the country. The April 1997 stoppage occurred the day before that year’s general election, but the malfunction was probably not a factor in the voting, which Tony Blair’s “New Labour” won in a landslide over incumbent Prime Minister John Major. Big Ben stopped again in May of 2005, on one of the hottest May days ever recorded in London.

READ MORE: How Did Big Ben Get Its Name?

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Source: HISTORY