Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Islamists threaten Somali pirates

Tension is apparently growing between Somali pirates and a militant Islamic movement that controls a wide swath of the country.

Leaders from the Islamic group Shebab (meaning "youth"), which runs much of southern and central Somalia, has condemned the pirates operating from Somalia's northern coast, reminding them that under Islamic law piracy is a crime punishable by death. Just to back up their point, Shebab has moved groups of fighters up from the south to positions just outside one of the pirate's coastal cities.

But Shebab's sudden discovery that Somalia has a problem with pirates is a little too convenient.

They only spoke out after pirates snatched the Sirius Star, a 1,000-foot long oil tanker (incidentally the largest ship ever captured by pirates), which happens to be owned by Saudi Arabia. The Saudis, in turn, have a long history of using their oil wealth to fund conservative (and militant) Islamic movements around the world, so it makes you wonder if Shebab's motive for threatening the pirates is less because they're violating Islamic law and more because they're threatening Shebab's funding.

And some residents along the pirate coast say that Shebab is divided over the whole piracy issue, with some members wanting in on what has become a very lucrative business.

Speaking of the business end of piracy, RealClearWorld posted a piece today that talked about some of the economic impacts of the recent piracy outbreak. The Danish shipping line Maersk has already ordered its tanker fleet to steer clear of the Somali coast - avoiding the much shorter Suez Canal route to Europe from Asia and the Persian Gulf and instead sailing all the way around Africa. Other shipping lines are considering the same move, all of which will likely result in higher prices for imported goods since thousands of miles will now be added onto the transport costs.

It could also make Europe more dependent on oil coming from or through Russia, and could cause real problems for Egypt where tolls for use of the Suez Canal are a major source of revenue.
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