Somali leader asks for resources to pursue pirates

Somalia's prime minister said he could go after pirates if other nations gave him the resources he needed.

Somalia's prime minister said he could go after pirates if other nations gave him the resources he needed.

Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke's response came after the US pressed Somalia to root out pirates menacing the seas off the Horn of Africa.

Mr Sharmarke said international help could open the way for more missions to hunt down the pirates inside his lawless country - actions that have been approved by the United Nations but rarely carried out.

Mr Sharmarke said his piracy-fighting plan would be ready next week in time for an international conference on Somalia in Brussels.

Meanwhile a US official said the Somali pirate captured during the stand-off over a kidnapped American ship's captain would be brought to New York to face trial.

The suspect, identified as Abduhl Wal-i-Musi, was taken aboard a US Navy ship shortly before navy SEAL snipers killed the three remaining pirates holding Capt Richard Phillips hostage on a lifeboat launched from his cargo vessel, the Maersk Alabama.

The international community is grappling with how to confront escalating attacks off the Horn of Africa by larger, bolder and better-armed pirate gangs who menace one of the world's busiest sea routes - especially after Mr Philips' dramatic rescue following five days in captivity.

Mr Phillips reached port in Mombasa, Kenya, yesterday, aboard the USS Bainbridge, hours after his crew held a joyous reunion with their families at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.

In Nairobi, Kenya, Mr Sharmarke and the president of the semi-autonomous Puntland region met US diplomats including the ambassador to Kenya, which borders Somalia.

"We want to press them to take action against these pirates who are operating from their territory," said US State Department spokesman Robert Wood. He said the United States was willing to help but had not decided how best to do so.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton announced a new US initiative on Wednesday to battle piracy and said she had formed a diplomatic team to press Somali leaders "to take action against pirates operating from bases within their territories".

Mr Sharmarke said his government was willing to share information that could boost the new US initiative to freeze pirates' assets and pursue the money trail of their multimillion-dollar ransoms.

"We have information on who is behind this, who is involved," he said. "There is a lot of money flowing in. ... We are following very closely how money is distributed here."

Behind the pirates are some powerful businessmen - and a few high-ranking politicians, according to one captured bandit - people whom Mr Sharmarke said his government had identified.

He said his government was drafting a plan to fight the pirates by building up its military forces and establishing intelligence-gathering posts along its coast.

But that is an unrealistic goal, given that his government barely has control of a few square miles in the capital of Mogadishu, and only then because the area is patrolled by African peacekeepers.

Mr Sharmarke said the amount of money the pirates had amassed in the last eight months "is quite enormous".

"With this capital, they are able to get much more sophisticated weaponry and technology. So it is very sad that we have to still deal with this arms embargo to equip our own forces," he said.

A United Nations arms embargo against Somalia has been in place since civil war broke out there in 1991, but the country is bristling with in illegal weapons.

"So the only way I think we can prevail over this violence is to have a superior capability to deal with this," Mr Sharmarke said.

But donor nations are reluctant to fund a government that offers little accountability and has a ragtag, trigger-happy army of 3,500.

Only France, which has taken the most aggressive action against pirates with nine attacks in the past year, has reported pursuing pirates on to Somali soil, and then only once.

In April 2008, helicopter-borne French troops swooped on pirates after they released 30 hostages from a luxury yacht, seizing six bandits and recovering sacks of ransom money - apparently paid by the boat owners.

The US has not had troops in Somalia since its humiliating intervention in 1993, when an attempted hit on a warlord in Mogadishu ended with his fighters downing two Black Hawk helicopters and people dragging the bodies of US soldiers through the streets. A 12-hour firefight killed 300 Somalis and 18 US soldiers. The US withdrew in 1994.

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