Merchant of Death
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The Criminal-Terrorist Pipeline In Full View
One of the most fascinating dramas unfolding, apart from the Wall Street meltdown, is the fate of the Ukrainian operated ship, hijacked by Somali pirates and loaded with tanks, anti-aircraft weapons and ammunition.

The hijackers of the ship Faina, a Ukrainian-operated, Belize-flagged vessel, are demanding $20 million ransom for the ship, its crew and contents. Several U.S. ships are maintaining visual contact with the ship to try to insure that none of the 33 T-72 tanks or other high value cargo is offloaded.

"We're deeply concerned about the cargo and we don't want it to go into the wrong hands," a U.S. spokesman said. Well, it seems it is a bit late for that, eh?

The Times of London is reporting that the Somali Islamists are already mobilizing to unload what they can.

“The Islamists have sent pick-ups from Mogadishu to go and collect the gear,” said an analyst with a network of Somali informers. “There's not much they can do with the tanks — they can't get them off — but the rest of the weapons they are trying to move ashore.”

Somalia's insurgents have made a series of impressive gains in recent weeks. They now control the port city of Kismayo and have armed and equipped pirate gangs as part of a campaign to control the seas.

So, radical Islamists supporting piracy that yields not only large amounts of wealth, but obstructs a major world sea lane, while at the same time effectively starving much of their own population by making it virtually impossible to deliver humanitarian aid to the region.

And, while the government of Kenya claims the shipment, including the tanks and other sophisticated weaponry, were for its army, it seems at least a good chunk were actually destined for southern Sudan.

I would like to see the end-user certificate for the transaction. Using a flag of convenience ship to send weapons to one of the world's most volatile regions, and making no efforts to insure the safe passage, despite a record number of hijacking in the very same waters, seems just a bit reckless.

The Islamists, of course, are looking for weapons. The Russians, as we have increasingly seen, are not overly concerned about where their weapons end up, be it Iran, Lebanon, Venezuela or, in the recent past, Mogadishu.

Pirates, of course, look to acquire merchandise of value and resell it. They are part of the facilitating network. If we were willing to pay $20 million, they would likely give the weapons to the U.S. navy. It really doesn't matter to them, as long as their profits hold up.

This is exactly the overlap between criminals and terrorists, through the network of "shadow facilitators" on either side that make the deals happen.

How it ends will be important. If the tanks end up in Somalia, Kenya or Sudan, it will be enough to militarily reshape the region, and likely not in the best interests of most of the people who live there. And, if it strengthened radical Islamist movements to the degree they can create new safe havens, we are all in more danger.

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