Radical Islamist insurgents in Somalia seized one of the country’s most notorious pirate dens on Sunday, raising questions about whether rebels with connections to Al Qaeda will now have a pipeline to tens of millions of dollars -- and a new ability to threaten global trade.
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. Two of Somalia’s biggest problems and its most troubling exports — Islamist extremism and piracy — seem to be crashing into each other.
For several years, an intense civil war has raged in the country between a weak United States-backed government and radical Islamist groups that are trying to overthrow it. The ensuing lawlessness has given rise to a thriving piracy trade, in which Somali thugs in small skiffs have commandeered some of the biggest vessels on the sea, including a 1,000-foot-long oil tanker.
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