Somali pirates have been accused of forming what is described as an “unholy high seas alliance” with some of the country’s Islamist insurgents.
Jane’s Terrorism and Security Monitor says certain insurgents are using pirates to smuggle weapons and supplies and help provide bases in return.
The London-based newsletter says pirates are also training Somali hardliners in naval tactics.
The links are traced to 2007, after Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia.
The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which took control of much of southern Somalia in 2006, had cracked down on pirate operations in Hobyo and Harardheere. […]
But after the UIC were ousted, various Islamic groups formed links with the pirates.
Bruno Schiemsky – who formerly monitored UN arms shipments into Somalia – says these links take a variety of forms:
Islamists have used the pirates to bring in arms shipments and foreign fighters, providing weapons and training in their use in return. They also help with bases from which the pirates operate
Hardliners, known as the Shabab, now have a degree of control over several pirate groups and provide operating funds and specialist weapons in return for a share of the ransoms being paid to free the ships and crew.
As many as 2,500 young Somalis have been trained by the Shabab at points all along the Somali coast.
The Islamists are using the pirates to train their own forces in naval tactics so that they can provide protection for arms being smuggled in Somalia from Eritrea.
The article provides details of three arms shipments brought into the country by pirates.
It says two shipments in May were for Sheikh Hassan Abdulle Hersi, who is also known as Hassan Turki, an Islamist leader who is based in southern Somalia near Kismayo. […]
Another shipment arrived in July and is reported to have contained large quantities of weapons including specialist sniper rifles, heavy machine guns, guided anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft guns, as well as ammunition. […]
The maritime force organised by the Shabab – along the lines of the Sea Tigers operated by the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers – is said to be located in southern Somalia.
All of that makes the promises in this next article ring hollow: “Somalia Islamists vow tough anti-piracy drive,” from Agence France-Presse:
MOGADISHU (AFP) “” A hardline Islamist alliance controlling Somalia’s main southern port of Kismayo on Wednesday promised tough measures to protect ships and traders from marauding pirates.
“We will set up marine forces and will protect all ships and vessels from the pirates off the coastal areas we control,” Sheikh Hasan Yaqub, spokesman for the Islamist administration in Kismayo told AFP.[…]
Kismayo, one off the largest cities in Somalia, was captured in August by an alliance of Shebab fighters — who are conquering much of the country — and warlord Hassan al-Turki, who is on a US terrorism list.
Yaqub said that on Wednesday alone, 20 small ships bringing goods from the United Arab Emirates had offloaded their cargo in Kismayo under the watch of the local authorities’ security forces.
“We will never allow those gangs to cause havoc in our waters anymore and we will protect all vessels,” he said.
Omar Abdiyare, one of the Somali traders whose vessel arrived in Kismayo Wednesday, said local businesses had asked the Islamist rulers to set up an anti-piracy force.
“We are very concerned at the growing number of attacks by pirates so we asked Islamists to protect our ships as much as possible off the coastal areas they control,” he said.
The Kismayo administration has imposed a very strict form of Sharia law in recent weeks. Under Islamic law, piracy is punishable by death.
One can’t help but wonder if this is all going to lead up to endless semantic quibbling about when piracy is or is not “really” piracy.