by KYLE MIZOKAMI and DAVID AXE
The South Korean destroyer Munmu the Great has done excellent work in warding off attacks on merchant shipping by Somali pirates, even helping capture a few. The destroyer’s Lynx helicopters have played an important role in the vessel’s operations. Now, according to The Korean Times, Al Qaeda has given pirates Stinger missiles to shoot down these choppers.
If true — and that’s a big, big “if” — are these real, American-made Stinger missiles? Not likely. Washington sent Stingers to Afghanistan and Angola in the 1980s to shoot down Soviet-made aircraft. Not all the unused missiles were recovered, but any still in circulation are likely no longer an active threat, due to maintenance issues. The name “Stinger” is probably on the way to becoming a ubiquitous moniker for man-portable surface-to-air missiles, like “AK-47″ for Russian-style assault rifles or “Coke” for syrupy soft drinks.
There are earlier reports of “Stingers” in Somalia. In March 2007, SA-18 missiles were used to shoot down a Belorussian Il-76 cargo plane as it departed Mogadishu’s international airport, killing all 11 people on board. According to the Federation of American Scientists, the missiles were traced back to Eritrea. There are reports that the Islamic Courts Union, which was believed responsible for the airport attack, has received hundreds of SAMs that way.
But missiles from Al Qaeda? Unlikely. Today the Islamic Courts Union has split in half. The more moderate half has allied with the U.S.-backed “Transitional Federal Government” and now represents the legit, albeit weak, ruling regime in Mogadishu. The hard-line Al-Shabab armed wing forms the core of an Islamic insurgency and has publicly aligned itself with Al Qaeda. But neither the government nor Al Shabab is a friend of pirates, whose crimes are considered un-Islamic. Both parties have sworn to eliminate pirates. If Al Shabab is Al Qaeda’s front in Somalia, and Al Shabab hates pirates, how would pirates get access to Al-Qaeda weaponry. It doesn’t add up.
Also, Somali pirates, more interested in self-preservation and making money than being killed, have generally avoided confrontations with the anti-pirate armada. Shooting down a chopper would mean a big firefight that isn’t in profit-seeking pirates’ interest.
(Photo: via Daylife)
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