- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Somalia’s transitional government is using private security firms and Arab governments to train and fund a paramilitary force to battle pirates in the region that have threatened international shipping.

A lawyer representing Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) said on Tuesday that a security contractor, Saracen International, is being paid by a Muslim government to train an anti-piracy force in Bosaso, a town in the northern Somali province of Puntland on the horn of Africa. The TFG is also looking into training another, similar force in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.

“The goal of the TFG and the donor is to strengthen the mechanism in order to bring some law and order into Somalia,” Pierre Prosper, the lawyer, told The Washington Times. “Many of the trainers have experience and were contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Mr. Prosper said the agreement between Saracen and the TFG/Puntland government is for security training. “The donor is paying for the services of Saracen. The only contract I am aware of is between Saracen and the Somali government to provide the services,” he said.

Mr. Prosper, who was President George W. Bush’s ambassador at large on war-crimes issues between 2001 and 2005, would not disclose the identity of the donor.

**FILE** Somali government coast guards patrol the coast of Mogadishu, Somalia to keep a watch for pirates who hijack ships off the coast. (Associated Press)
**FILE** Somali government coast guards patrol the coast of Mogadishu, Somalia to ... more >

Mr. Prosper said, however, that “as of now, the donor is from a Muslim country that chooses to remain anonymous, due to various concerns, including their own domestic security. We have been in dialogue with the donor with the idea of them formally releasing a notice to the United Nations and becoming public.”

Two U.S. officials familiar with the plans to create the anti-piracy force said one of the donors is the United Arab Emirates (UAE), one of the United States‘ closest allies in the Persian Gulf. The embassy from the UAE declined to comment for this article.

To date, the training camp in Puntland has trained at least 100 members of the counter-piracy militia with a goal of training a thousand fighters in the coming months, Mr. Prosper said.

Earlier this month, Mr. Prosper briefed a U.N. monitoring group in Nairobi, Kenya, that had raised concerns that the new force could be violating U.N. sanctions on Somalia if the donors remained anonymous. He said that so far, no arms were shipped to the training camp, to the best of his knowledge.

The move to create anti-piracy forces in Somalia represents a new approach to the war in that country.

Until now, most international assistance to Somalia has been to the TFG based in Mogadishu through the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), with troops provided by African armies. AMISOM’s mission is focused on stability operations and protecting Mogadishu from the al Qaeda-linked insurgent group, Al-Shabab. The TFG currently controls most of the north of Somalia, with the south being largely controlled by Al-Shabab.

This new approach puts Saracen, the security contractor, in the role African armies traditionally play in AMISOM of training a security force.

The company has a controversial past in Africa. Salim Saleh, the younger brother of Uganda’s president, is on the board of Saracen, Uganda.

Uganda is also one of the major donors to AMISOM. Saracen has also been closely linked to South Africa’s military.

Saracen’s chief operating officer, who signed the contract with the TFG, is Lafras Luitingh, a former South African intelligence officer who worked as a senior officer for Executive Outcomes, an Africa-based security contractor that was dissolved in 1999.

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