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    Somalis in Australia quizzed over pirate links

    Cameron Stewart | November 22, 2008
    Article from: The Australian

    VICTORIA Police's secret intelligence unit is investigating possible links between Somali pirates and Melbourne's 10,000-strong Somali community.

    Community members are being quizzed about their knowledge of pirate groups in Somalia and have been asked to provide any information that may assist negotiations to release some of the 250 crew members currently held hostage in that country.

    The investigation, by the police Security Intelligence Group, began in September and has been stepped up this week following the brazen hijacking of the oil supertanker Sirius Star -- the largest ship ever captured by pirates.

    The Sirius is the 95th ship to be attacked in the waters off Somalia and East Africa so far this year and the 39th to be hijacked, including nine in the past two weeks.

    Detective Senior Constable Simon Artz told The Weekend Australian yesterday: "We areseeing whether anyone in Australia's Somali community has contact with anyone related to the pirates themselves and might be able to supply us with information.

    "If we get information, then we can supply federal agencies, which may then be in a position to assist with any negotiations internationally."

    Melbourne has one of the largest concentrations of Somalis outside Africa. About 10,000 -- half of Australia's total Somali population -- live in the city.

    Many of these immigrants maintain close contact with relatives in Somalia, raising the prospect that some have connections to those involved in the burgeoning piracy industry.

    The Security Intelligence Group began investigating possible links with pirates in September after the capture of the Ukrainian arms ship Faina, carrying 33 T72 Russian tanks.

    The president of the Somali community of Victoria, Abdurahman Jama Osman, said he did not know anyone in Australia who had links to the pirates.

    "Even if they did know any pirates, they will never tell you," he said. "I don't believe that one person from the Somali community will be happy about what these pirates are doing."

    One of the Somali community's most respected leaders, Isse Musse, said that although the community did not support the pirates' actions, it could understand them.

    "Many believe the pirates are expressing their anger at the international community for abandoning Somalia to its fate for close to 20 years," Sheik Musse said. "People here are saying, 'Well, this is the natural outcome of such a thing'.

    "They are not supporting this (piracy) but they can understand why this happened."

    Sheik Musse said piracy was being fuelled by the fact that foreign vessels had fished illegally in Somali waters for many years, robbing local fishermen of their livelihoods and forcing them toresort to other ways to make aliving.

    "The only solution is for the international community to fix Somalia properly," he said.

    "They are putting all their effort into the Congo, but none into Somalia."
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