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Corsair is a pirate who used to operate with a commission from a government (privateer). Etymologically, it derives from the Italian corso ("chase"), and thus means "one who gives chase."
an alternative term for a Barbary Pirate, especially "Turkish corsairs"
Though at least a proportion of them are better described as privateers, the Barbary pirates operated out of Tunis, Tripoli, Algiers, Salè and ports in Morocco, preying on shipping in the western Mediterranean Sea from the time of the Crusades as well as on ships on their way to Asia around Africa until the early 19th century. Their stronghold was along the stretch of northern Africa known as the Barbary Coast (a medieval term for the Maghreb after its Berber inhabitants), although their predation was said to extend as far north as Iceland, and south along West Africa's Atlantic seaboard. As well as preying on shipping, raids were often made on European coastal towns. The pirates were responsible for capturing large numbers of Christian slaves from Western Europe, who were sold in slave markets in places such as Morocco. Sultan Moulay Ismail had a very substantial fortified palace built almost entirely by Christian slave labour obtained through the actions of Barbary pirates.
Perhaps the best-known was Barbarossa (meaning red beard) the nickname of Khair ad Din, who after having been invited to defend the city of Algiers from the Spaniards killed its ruler and seized it in 1510, making it into a major base for privateering, as well as a regent for the sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
Some of them were renegades or Moriscos. Their usual ship was the galley with slaves or prisoners at the oars. Two examples of these renegades are Süleyman Reis "De Veenboer" who became admiral of the Algerian corsair fleet in 1617, and his quartermaster Murad Reis, born Jan Janszoon van Haarlem. Both worked for the notorious corsair (privateer) Simon the Dancer, who owned a palace. These pirates were all originally Dutch. The Dutch admiral Michiel de Ruyter unsuccessfully tried to end their piracy.
Raids by Barbary pirates on Western Europe did not cease until 1816, when a Royal Navy raid, assisted by six Dutch vessels, destroyed the port of Algiers and its fleet of Barbary ships.
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