US searches for links between Somali pirates, terrorist groups

April 10th, 2009 - 3:02 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Apr 10 (ANI): US officials have found no direct ties between Somali pirates and terrorist groups, but continue to search for signs of links in the wake of the Indian Ocean hostage incident.

It was not clear whether officials were specifically scrutinizing the Somali pirates who boarded the Maersk Alabama on Tuesday and fled in a lifeboat after taking the cargo ship’s captain hostage, FOX News reported.

Military and counter-terrorism officials say that in the transient world of Somalia’s combative coastal dwellers, a Somali clansman can be a fisherman one day, a pirate the next, and a weapons trafficker the following day.

“If you look at the clan structure or the tribes - to think that there may not be linkages probably is a bit naive,” said Army General William Ward, head of the Pentagon’s Africa Command.

Michael Leiter, director of the National Counter-terrorism Centre, warned that some of the money from piracy could make its way into the hands of extremists.

When hijackings first spiked off the coast of Somalia last year, counter-terrorism officials pressed for any evidence that the country’s extremist factions, or even Al Qaeda militants operating in East Africa, might be using piracy to fund their violence.

But the complicated clan structure and Somalia’s ungoverned black market have made it difficult to trace the cash transactions.

A key concern for the military, the official said, is the steady flow of black-market weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, from Yemen into Somalia, where militants use them in both on- and offshore crimes.

In 2008, pirates operating off Somalia earned 30 million dollars in ransom through the seizure of 42 vessels. (ANI)

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