For centuries, Arab states across North Africa made fortunes from piracy. Now in the 21st century, a new pirate state is taking prisoners and holding them for ransom.
In the past, raiding the coasts of Spain and Italy, scouring the Mediterranean and ravaging into the Atlantic as far as Iceland, Barbary corsairs captured over a million Christian prisoners for their slave pens. Some were forced to labour for the rest of their miserable lives, some were forced into harems or the sex trade and some, the richer ones, were held for ransom.
The rulers of Algiers, Tripoli and Salé grew rich from this lucrative trade in hostages, but even better was the protection money they extorted from European countries in return for leaving their merchant vessels alone.