Pirates are charging ships using the Gulf of Aden a "toll" to fund their criminal activities, including help Somali insurgents fight their weak interim government.Hat tip to Jane...
Maritime industry senior officials are convinced that the toll, by way of ransom, is imposed to sponsor the activities of warlords and international terrorist groups.
The criminals are believed to be responsible for overthrowing Somali dictator Mohammad Siad Barre in 1991, and subsequent lawlessness has increasingly threatened safety in one of the world's most important waterways.
"On a larger scale, the pirates are believed to have links with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist group," said an official familiar with developments in the region.
"There is fear the Somali pirates, mostly based in the northern breakaway Puntland region, have criminal networks in Yemen, especially after the key southern Somali port of Kismayu was seized by rebels last month."
The official said while the US-led coalition forces patrolling the gulf appeared more concerned about terrorist activities rather than piracy, their patience could be running thin in view of the dramatic number of hijackings.
A total of 30 ships have been hijacked there this year, including four vessels within 48 hours over the past month.
Somali pirates are currently holding about 130 crew members hostage from seven tankers and bulk-carriers from Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Nigeria, Germany and Iran since July 20.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
From the The New Straits Times: