What, if any, is the connection between the thousands of pirates (pictured) operating from southern Somalia, and the Islamic groups that control a growing swath of the country?
One University of Maryland researcher said the Islamists appear, in some cases, to support the pirates — but told me today that it’s not clear why. “It is a suspicion, since some of the hijacked ships have moored of the southern coast of Somalia, which is largely controlled by [Islamic group] Al Shabab,” said Jana Shakarian. “If you have control over these parts of the country, you also control the ports — who’s getting in and who’s not. It nurtures suspicion of some kind of cooperation.”
But Al Shabab has promised to fight the pirates who this week seized a Saudi oil tanker carrying $100 million in crude.
I for one suspect wider Islamic control in Somalia will actually decrease piracy, as it did during the previous Islamic rule two years ago. Piracy thrives in the absence of law and order, and law and order happen to be exactly what Islamists are good at.
As for Shakarian’s suspicions: no one group yet has unchallenged, total control anywhere in Somalia. Everywhere the situation is fluid. So the presence of pirates at a given port is not evidence of collusion with the groups most likely to emerge as local leadership.
(Photo: U.S. Navy)
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