Mogadishu: Radical Islamist insurgents in Somalia have seized one of the country’s most notorious pirate dens, raising questions about whether rebels with connections to al Qaeda will now have a pipeline to tens of millions of dollars.
According to a New York Times report, dozens of insurgents stormed into Xarardheere, a pirate cove on the central Somali coast, around noon, but instead of putting up a fight, the pirates sped off.
According to witnesses, several pirate bosses raced out of town in luxury four-by-four trucks, with TVs packed in the back and mattresses strapped on top.
Islamist fighters in a fleet of heavily armed pickup trucks then occupied the strategic points in town, including the defunct police station and several crossroads.
What will happen next is not clear.
Maritime experts estimate that Somali pirates have received more than USD 100 million in ransom — an enormous sum for a nation with virtually no economy.
The pirates of Xarardheere currently hold several hijacked ships. But before they fled, they sent the ships further out to sea to prevent Islamist insurgents from capturing their hostages, which is a worrying prospect for Western diplomats and others.
Under strict Islamic law, piracy is considered haram (forbidden), and in 2006, during a six-month period when an Islamist movement pacified much of Somalia, the Islamists curtailed piracy significantly.