Mogadishu: Dozens of fighters from one of
Somalia`s most powerful rebel groups moved into a northern
town today where pirates operate, sending the pirates fleeing
in a development that could upend the piracy trade, witnesses
Fighters from the militia group Hizbul Islam moved into
the strategic pirate den of Haradhere. The Islamists could be
looking to take over the trade or simply take a cut of the
millions of dollars in ransom that pirates take in.
Hizbul Islam is also likely to gain a foothold in
Haradhere before the rival militant group al-Shabab
Any mixing of the pirate trade and the more dangerous
Islamist insurgency has major implications for the 300-plus
foreign hostages the pirates now hold and on international
shipping companies` future ability to pay the pirates ransom.
If militants take over the piracy trade, such ransom
payments would end up in the hands of terror groups.
"Around 200 heavily armed militants with 14 vehicles
mounted with guns moved into our town early this morning and
took up strategic positions, such as the police station and
some former government premises," resident Aden Jim`ale told
The Associated Press by telephone.
Mohamed Abdi Aros, Hizbul Islam`s head of operations,
confirmed that his fighters had entered the town. He claimed
that locals had requested that they enter to provide security.
Militants al-Shabab, Somalia`s most dangerous rebel group,
sent scouts into the town earlier this month.
"Two days ago Hizbul Islam sent agents to the coastal
towns saying they wished to move into the area before
al-Shabab and demanded a slice of the business, but the pirate
leaders ignored the request. That is why they moved in today,"
said Abdiwali Gadid, a self-proclaimed pirate.
Hundreds of pirates could be seen leaving the town hours
before the militia moved in, using luxury cars and trucks to
carry away TVs, generators and mattresses.
"Hundreds of the town`s well-known pirates in luxury cars
had fled from the town toward nearby Hobyo," said resident
Hizbul Islam lost a major source of revenue when it was
kicked out of the southern port town of Kismayo by al-Shabab.
Militants levy taxes on the port trade in Kismayo.
Islamic insurgents control much of Mogadishu and have
been trying to topple the fragile government for three years.
Somalia has not had an effective government for nearly 20