The US Naval Institute blog has a piece from last week pondering the connections between pirates operating in the seas off Somalia and the potential that it is funding extremist groups, something I've talked about before here. The author, Galrahn, talks about recent comments attributed to an al-Qaeda supporter, Sa’id Ali Jabir Al Khathim Al Shihri (aka Abu Sufian al-Azdi), calling upon Somali 'jihadists' to attack foreigners - he calls them crusaders - in the seas off East Africa. (Shihri was incarcerated in Guantanamo for six years before being sent back to Saudi Arabia last year, only to reappear spouting these purported comments.)
Galrahn wonders if the rise in pirate incidents off Somalia last autumn could be tied to the efforts of Somali Islamists - namely al-Shabaab - to hook up with al-Qaeda, efforts which began at about the same time. It's an interesting perspective, though I would offer that most of the pirates who may allied with al-Shabaab operate in the southern part of the country, not within the Gulf of Aden (GoA) region. Most of the folks in Somaliland and Puntland, the two areas in the north that abut the GoA, appear to have little desire to see Islamist rule imposed along the lines of that al-Shabaab espouses. And the upsurge of pirate incidents that came in August and September may also be attributed to the end of the summer monsoon season, a period over the the summer months in which those seas become somewhat rough and see many pirates take a breather from attacking in their small craft.
EagleSpeak has commented a number of times about the influence of weather patterns in the seas of the Horn of Africa on pirate attacks in those waters. And it's certainly true that we see patterns where attacks go down when the weather turns rough. This is one reason we're seeing so much activity off Somalia right now, because the pirates are trying to 'harvest' as much as they can before the monsoon winds begins to blow in a couple of months.
Nevertheless, I still think that we need to be vigilant about the threat of piracy funding extremist groups. Somalia has the potential to become the Afghanistan of Africa, something that few desire to see occur.