Al-Shabaab arms, trains pirates for spoils of terror

From The National Post

Somali militants training pirates

‘Relationship of convenience’: Canadian report

Stewart Bell, National Post Published: Thursday, December 03, 2009

Members of the hardline Al-Shabaab Islamist rebel group sit on a pick-up during a demonstration in Mogadishu, Oct. 30, 2009. Omar Faruk/Reuters Members of the hardline Al-Shabaab Islamist rebel group sit on a pick-up during a demonstration in Mogadishu, Oct. 30, 2009.

The Somali militant group Al-Shabab has been arming and training pirates in exchange for a share of their spoils, says a newly released Canadian intelligence document.

Al-Shabab has formed a “relationship of convenience” with one of the two main pirate networks operating off the Horn of Africa, the “Top Secret” intelligence assessment says.

The report describes an “Islamist extremism-piracy nexus” that involves Al-Shabab providing “weapons, combat training and local protection” to the Mudug pirates of southern Somalia.

In return, “elements of Al-Shabab continue to receive portions of the spoils from successful hijackings either in cash or seized weapons and materiel,” it says.

Pirate attacks in the region have soared over the past two years but in addition to threatening international shipping, they are also apparently financing the Somali extremist group at the centre of several major North American counter-terrorism investigations.

The FBI is probing at least 20 Somali-Americans who have left Minneapolis to join Al-Shabab, and the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service are investigating whether up to six Somali-Canadians who left Toronto in recent weeks were also recruited by Al-Shabab.

The report was written by Integrated Threat Assessment Centre, which is made up of representatives of Canada’s national security agencies. A copy of was obtained under the Access to Information Act.

It says 13% of the cargo that passes through Canadian ports transits the pirate-infested waters around the Horn of Africa. Last year, a shipment of Canadian iron ore was commandeered by Somalia pirates and released after the owner of the vessel, the Yasa Neslihan, paid a ransom, the report says.

Somali pirate attacks more than doubled last year to 115, 46 of which were successful. Given the millions worth of ransom payments involved, the “operation ties” between the pirates and Al-Shabab could earn significant sums for the militants.

Al-Shabab is an armed group that is fighting what it calls a jihad to impose Islamic law in Somalia and beyond.

The group adheres to al-Qaeda’s anti-Western ideology, and the report says that, “some Al-Shabab fighters and leaders have also received guidance from al-Qaeda and have attended foreign training camps.”

As part of a recruiting effort aimed at Western youths, Al-Shabab has been distributing Internet propaganda videos in English that feature rap music and show foreign fighters engaged in attacks.

The Somali-Canadians under investigation are in their early- to mid-twenties. Most left Toronto together in early November without informing their families or friends. Investigators believe they are already in Somalia.

The Abu Huraira mosque, where some of them worshipped, has urged anyone with information to come forward.

National Post

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