Sunday, October 05, 2008

Somali Pirates: Follow the money, matey. Or the hawala. Or the freshly butchered halal cow.

Somali Islamists want MV Faina weapons. And their cut of the loot.

Are the Somali Pirates and al Qaeda's team, the Somali Islamists, getting ready to mix it up? Pirate squabbles since the beginning of time have usually centered around the dividing up of the spoils and the women. This appears to be no exception. The Islamists and the SOMALI GOVERNMENT are all lining up with their hand out to get their piece of the action. And it's not going well.

The Chatham House group has issued a report, Piracy in Somalia, which claims the Abdullahi Yusef government ACTUALLY benefits from the piracy. We know he has relatives in the region and that they are involved with the pirates. Hells Bells, it sounds like everybody is in on it. The locals, the pirates, the Islamists and the Government. What a damn racket!

"The fact that the pirates originate from Puntland is significant as this is also the home region of President Abdullahi Yusuf. As one expert said, ‘money will go to Yusuf as a gesture of goodwill to a regional leader’10 – so even if the higher echelons of Somali government and clan structure are not directly involved in organizing piracy, they probably do benefit."

The Somali President has yet to challenge this statement.

Pass the popcorn as we try to follow the money, possums.

Islamist insurgents have demanded to be given some of the weapons aboard a hijacked Ukrainian ship carrying 33 tanks but the pirates holding it have refused, a local official said on Sunday. The Islamist gunmen from the al Shabaab group opposing Somalia's weak interim government have also received a five percent cut of the $1.5 million paid out for a Spanish ship released several months ago, a resident told Reuters.


"Al Shabaab wanted some weapons from the Ukrainian ship but the pirates rejected their demands," a local official who asked not to be named told Reuters. "Al Shabaab went away after they were rejected by the residents and the pirates. I am sure the group is not far from the area," he said.

Residents confirmed fears that ransom payments to pirates were being passed onto the Islamist movement and were fuelling the insurgency against President Abdullahi Yusuf's government. One resident and a relative of the pirates holding the Ukrainian vessel said the al Shaabab men received a five percent share of the last ransom paid but had been demanding more.

"Al Shabaab demanded more money from pirates and they disagreed," resident Hussein Ali told Reuters. "They met the pirates near Hobyo and asked for more money...but the pirates refused." They are also expecting a share of any money paid out for the Ukrainian ship and two Greek ships held at Hobyo, he said. "They are waiting for some money from these three ships held in our area. Most of the al Shabaab who asked for money are in the same sub-subclan with the pirates around Hobyo," Ali said.

And follow the cow...

Most of the money, usually 10-20 per cent of that demanded by the hijackers, is moved quickly along the line to the so-called 'Big Fish' in the clans - in the government of the provincial capital, in Mogadishu and in the Somalian diaspora in Nairobi and Dubai where those behind the piracy are allegedly to be found.


John Chase, managing director for intelligence and crisis response at AKE, says while many groups originally employed the Islamic hawala banking system as a method to launder money, increasingly groups are asking for cash. 'There are some groups still asking for hawala, but there are other groups asking for money to be delivered by tug. And yes - that means sacks of money.'

Sometimes, however, it is not the money that is most challenging. 'The boats will be held for a while. If they are on their way to port they can be short of food. Then the demand is: "Bring us a cow or some goats killed in the halal way otherwise we are going to start lopping off some heads."'

Of course, al Guardian is all aboard with the "Pirate as eco-warrior" spin being bandied about by the Pirate's PR Spokesman, Ali Sugule. (I know, what has this world come to when Pirates have PR spokesmen?). The Scotsman report quotes Ali quite extensively, who tells us we should "think of them as the Coast Guard". Please.

And I'm sure you'll be happy to know that Portugal is offering their 'political support' to the fight. But won't commit to "military means." Don't knock yourself out, there Portugal. I've about had it with these EU handwringers standing on the sidelines offering their support. Support which usually consists of unbridled criticism of those that are trying to do something about the problem. (feh)