Pirate links to al-Shabab

The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Leon E. Panetta has told the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Terrorism that piracy off the coast of Somalia is possibly funding the al-Shabab insurgent group.

The CIA’s 19th Director told the committee that Whilst the case is quite convincing, there is no affirmative evidence as yet to confirm the suspicions.

Although no definitive link has been established between al-Shabab and any pirate group, a recent media report identified potential financial links between Somali pirates and al-Shabab. Allegedly pirates in Kismayo often coordinate actions with Al-Shabab, it is believed that al-Shabab members themselves do not play any active role in acts of piracy.

Panetta described the relationship between al-Shabab and Somali pirates as fairly good.

The Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Ed Royce, spoke about maritime piracy and the possible connection to terrorism. He noted the average ransom paid to Somali pirates rose from around $300,000 a few years ago to more than $4 million. Royce stated that “We should be concerned that these payments may fund al-Shabaab, al-Qaida’s East Africa arm,” adding that “We can’t be passive.”

Royce stated that pirates operate in an area of around 2.5 million square nautical miles, adding that in January a top United Nations official said pirates are becoming “the masters” of the Indian Ocean.

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