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U.S. Fears Ukrainian Ship's Weapons Will Fall Into Somali Jihadist Hands

By Matthew Harwood

The United States fears that the Somali pirates that have taken the Ukrainian cargo ship Faina hostage in the Gulf of Aden may aid and abet terrorists, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. fears the armaments may end up with al-Qaida-linked Islamic militants who have been fighting an insurgency against the shaky, U.N.-backed Somali transitional government since late 2006, when the Islamists were driven out after six months in power. More than 9,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the Iraq-style insurgency.

The pirates' spokesman, Sugule Ali, told The New York Times via a satellite phone this morning that the pirates had no knowledge the cargo ship carried Soviet designed T-72 tanks, heavy weaponry, and ammunition worth $30 million.

“We just saw a big ship,” Ali said. “So we stopped it.”


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He says the pirates will release the ship when they are paid $20 million and have no intention of selling the weapons to Islamist insurgents.

“Somalia has suffered from many years of destruction because of all these weapons,” Ali said during the Times interview. “We don’t want that suffering and chaos to continue. We are not going to offload the weapons. We just want the money.”

The pirates, however, don't seem to have the upperhand in any negotiations: Ali told the AP that they are surrounded by four warships. One of the those ships is the U.S. destroyer, the U.S.S. Howard. (The U.S. Navy told the AP it had sent other ships to the scene but declined to provide details.) Russia has also dispatched a warship to the area, but it will take a week to get there.

Despite widespread fears that terrorism and piracy might merge, the RAND Corporation says the fear is unfounded. As Security Management reported in June:

The study notes that pirates and terrorists have different motivations. Pirates seek financial gain from their activities, while terrorists, in the form of jihadists, want to inflict maximum economic damage against the maritime shipping industry in their continual war with the "West." The two's interests are therefore antithetical: pirates want to sustain sea trade, so they can profit off of it, while jihadists want to destroy it to hurt Western economies, says the study.

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