Mystery nation funding militia in northern Somalia

By Sarah Ostman

A 1,ooo-man militia is being trained to hunt down pirates in a remote location in northern Somalia. That sounds weird already, but it gets weirder: Nobody knows who’s paying for it.

A “mysterious donor nation” is funding the operation, according to an Associated Press article, and it’s hiring some important Americans, including a former CIA officer and a former ambassador for war crimes who served under President George W. Bush.

That ambassador, Pierre Prosper, told AP he is being paid by a Muslim nation to give legal advice to the Somali government about security, transportation and corruption issues, but wouldn’t identify the nation.

The millions of dollars for the militia are supposedly coming from a “zakat fund” — that is, from alms that Muslims donate each year. The donations are equipping the militia with 120 new pickup trucks and six small aircrafts for patrolling the coast. No other force in Somalia, including the government, has that kind of fleet.

The mystery understandably has some people on edge.

“We don’t know if this unknown entity is operating in the interests of Somalis or their own self-interest,” said said E.J. Hogendoorn, a Nairobi-based analyst with the International Crisis Group. “If it’s a company, there has to be a quid pro quo in terms of (oil and gas) concessions. If it’s a government, they are interested in changing the balance of power.”

This is of particular concern because the Somali government isn’t doing so well these days. The country hasn’t had a fully functioning government since 1991 and is torn by violence.

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