Pirates as bandits
Ben MacIntyre argues that the term "pirate" is a misnomer. He thinks the more accurate label is "shifta," the traditional name for maritime bandits on the horn of Africa:
The term shifta may be unfamiliar, yet it is a key to understanding what is happening off the coast of Somalia, and how it might possibly be resolved. Shifta, derived from the Somali word shúfto, can be translated as bandit or rebel, outlaw or revolutionary, depending on which end of the gun you are on.
In the roiling chaos that is Somalia, the killers and criminals are variously pirates, warlords, kidnappers, fanatics or Islamic insurgents. Most are young, angry men with no prospects, no education and a great deal of heavy weaponry. But all are historically descended from the shiftas who have plundered the Horn of Africa for decades. [Independent]
Interestingly, like today's boat hijackers, the original shiftas originated as militias and later crossed over into lives of crime.