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UPI Terrorism Watch

By JOHN C.K. DALY and JENNIFER SCHULTZ, UPI Correspondents

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Increasingly bold attacks by Somali pirates further off the coast are having a negative impact on East African shipping. This year, 32 attacks on foreign merchantmen have occurred in Somali waters; in October alone pirates hijacked five ships and last week attempted to seize the 10,000-ton Miami-based cruise ship Seabourn Spirit.

On Sept. 23 the State Department issued a travel advisory noting, "Supporters of al-Qaida and other extremists are active in East Africa. Terrorist actions may include suicide operations, bombings, kidnappings or targeting maritime vessels." As a result, on Oct. 7 a U.S. cruise ship carrying more than 600 tourists cancelled a planned port stop in Mombassa, Kenya.

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Ships hijacked by Somali pirates this year include the Semlow, Miltzow, Torgelow, Bahari Kenya, Bahari Hindi, Bahari Kubwa, Horizont I and Horizont II, Angel, Bonsela, Alpha Mitchel, Samar I, Aeron, Beira 3, Beira 9 and Marine VII.

Nairobi's The Nation newspaper quoted United Nations World Food Program Deputy Country Director Leo van der Velden as saying that the recent spate of hijackings along the Somali Coast was threatening food relief supplies. "This is precarious to our operations. Yet hundreds of people need food in Somalia" van der Velden said.

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International concern is rising over Yemen's position as a freewheeling arms bazaar. Weaponry channeled through Yemen is supplying terrorists, as well as militants in Sudan, Somalia, the Palestinian Authority territories, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia.

Adding to the problem of halting the arms transfers is the fact that besides the black market, until recently the Yemeni government allowed surplus legitimate military purchases to be marketed. The government had cancelled third party licenses, which allowed local businessmen to purchase weapons abroad for the government, with surplus stock being sold to citizens through dealers.

Both the United States and the United Nations remained concerned about the trafficking.

Estimates of the quantity of small and light arms in Yemen vary between nine and 60 million weapons. Ambassador Gasem al-Aghbari, head of the Europe Directorate of the Yemeni Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that over the last few years the government had spent more than $44.4 million to buy weapons from the public.

The Yemen Times reported that besides diversions of Yemeni military equipment to the black market, local arms-trafficking gangs in Serbia, Slovakia, Montenegro, Croatia and Kosovo were shipping weapons from Adriatic ports to Yemen.

Despite being the poorest nation in the Arab world, Yemen is among its top weapons purchasers. Yemen's military budget tripled from 1998 to 2003. In 2003, the CIA estimated Yemen's military expenditures at $885.5 million. The lavish arms expenditures were paralleled by a growth in weapons trafficking activity, an enterprise reputedly supervised by a top officer who is close relative of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

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The massive covert arms trade is having an impact across the Red Sea. According to the four-member United Nations panel monitoring the arms embargo on Somalia, Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed is receiving massive shipments of Yemeni arms. Yemen openly admitted flouting U.N. Security Council Resolution 733, which in 1992 imposed an arms embargo on Somalia by giving Ahmed's forces "5,000 personal arms." The most recent report by the U.N. panel suggests that Somalia also received Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers, heavy-machine guns and anti-tank mines from Yemen.


Ten Australian Federal Police personnel will join the United Nations Mission in Sudan for a deployment lasting at least 18 months.

The Australian Defense Force has 15 specialists already participating in the peacekeeping mission, including air and land support. The specialists were deployed in May, two months after the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1590 approving the establishment of the mission in Sudan. The U.N. Mission's primary function is to help implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in January between the Sudanese government and the country's main resistance group, Sudan People's Liberation Movement. The U.N. Mission will coordinate its operations with the African Union's Mission in Sudan.

Since 2003, Australia has provided Sudan with $40.1 million in humanitarian aid, primarily for Darfur, and has issued more than 14,000 humanitarian visas to Sudanese, according to the Sudan Tribune.

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Given the volatility of the situation, the Australian government on Nov. 10 issued a travel advisory cautioning its citizens against visiting the war-torn nation. The advisory noted, "We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Sudan at this time due to the very volatile security situation. There is also a high threat of terrorist attack and we continue to receive reports that terrorists are planning attacks against Western interests in East Africa, including Sudan."

Australia does not have an embassy or consulate in Sudan; diplomatic affairs are handled by the Australian embassy in Cairo.


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