Friday, October 3, 2008

Mystery about those Ukrainian tanks

So where exactly was that shipload of tanks seized by Somali pirates headed?

The story is that the tanks were sold by a Ukrainian company to the government of Kenya and were on their way there when the pirates attacked. But according to the BBC, there is growing evidence that the tanks were really headed to South Sudan.

When we talk about Sudan, usually it's about the ongoing unrest (many would call it genocide) in the western region of Darfur, but forces in the southern part of the country also fought their own bloody civil war against the central government in Khartoum. That conflict has was halted in 2005 thanks to a peace treaty, though part of the treaty agreement was that the region can have a referendum in 2011 on independence. Reports are that groups in both the north and south of Sudan are building up their forces in preparation for 2011, thinking that the South will vote to go its own way from the rest of Sudan. Defense analysts think that South Sudan could already have as many as 100 tanks in their arsenal, not counting the three dozen currently embargoed by the Somali pirates. It is a force that analysts say could change the balance of power in the region.

Both the governments of Ukraine and Kenya deny that the tanks were really headed for South Sudan. The pirates meanwhile are demanding a ransom of $20 million for the release of the ship, its crew and the tanks.
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