Somalia mulls privately trained antipiracy force

Somalia is to allow a private co. to train a 1,000-man antipiracy force in capital.

Nairobi: Somalia is considering
allowing a private security company to train a 1,000-man
antipiracy force in the capital of Mogadishu, a Somali
official said Friday.

It would be the second such unit funded
by an unidentified country - a project that has raised
eyebrows in Washington and in the UN.

The security company, Saracen International, is
already training a different 1,000-man force in Somalia`s
northern region of Puntland. The project is being funded by an
unknown Muslim country that those involved in the project -
including and former US ambassador and a former CIA officer -
will not name.

Somali Ambassador Mohamed Ali Nur told The Associated
Press the Mogadishu force would hit the pirates on land, where
their havens are out of reach of a multinational naval armada
which has tried to protect international shipping.

The Somali government will decide in the next three
weeks whether to have Saracen train the antipiracy force in
Mogadishu, Nur said. Another programme to train up to 300 men
for the presidential guard is also being considered.

If approved, that could mean up to 2,400 men would be
trained by Saracen International. The mystery donor has also
promised to pay the men and equip them with everything except
arms. The total cost of the project is unclear. A European
Union-led programme to reform the Somali army is training and
paying for 2,000 men at a cost of around USD 13.2 million,
indicating that at such a level of expenditure, the anonymous
donor nation has deep pockets.

The donor insists on keeping its identity secret,
citing concerns over terrorism, according to a presentation
about the company given to Nairobi-based diplomats today.

Somali pirates have never been known to retaliate
against nations that have sent warships to patrol the Somali
coast, but the al-Qaida-linked Somali insurgency launched
suicide bombings in Uganda that killed 76 people in July.

Uganda is a main contributor to an African Union peacekeeping
force in Somalia.