Judith van der Merwe of the Algiers-based African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism has revealed that Somali pirates have got hold of mines and shoulder held missile launchers from the troubled State of Libya thousands of miles away from Somalia, and are likely to use them against commercial shipping.
“We found that Libyan weapons are being sold in what is the world’s biggest black market for illegal gun smugglers, and Somali pirates are among those buying from sellers in Sierra Leone, Liberia and other countries,” she said. “We believe our information is credible and know that some of the pirates have acquired ship mines, as well as Stinger and other shoulder-held missile launchers,” Van der Merwe told Reuters at an Indian Ocean naval conference.
There has been no independent confirmation of this development; Singapore's Rear Admiral Harris Chan, s former commander of naval Task Force 151 in the Gulf of Aden, has said that there is no evidence that Somali pirates have access to sophisticated weapons beyond AK47s and RPGs 'at this stage'. Experts say that it is possible that pirates are trying to build up an arsenal for use against EU sea and air forces in the area as the EU takes the battle against the pirates on land. Yesterday's reports of unidentified aircraft attacking pirate bases in Somalia indicate that the battle there may well be escalating.
Van der Merwe says that the information on mines and SAMs was obtained from interviews with gun smugglers, pirates and other sources. “What we are seeing is a decrease in the number of successful attacks, but an increase in the ransom amounts paid out, and the fear is that better armed pirates could risk more or pose a greater challenge when facing capture,” she said.