March 27, 2013 in Nation/World

U.S., allies eye new anti-piracy effort

Lolita C. Baldor Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – The U.S. and some of its allies are considering plans to increase anti-piracy operations along Africa’s west coast, spurred on by concerns that money from the attacks is funding a Nigerian-based insurgent group that is linked to one of al-Qaida’s most dangerous affiliates.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has escalated over the past year, and senior U.S. defense and counter-piracy officials say allied leaders are weighing whether beefed up enforcement efforts that worked against pirates off the Somalia coast might also be needed in the waters off Nigeria.

There has been growing coordination between Nigeria-based Boko Haram and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which was linked to the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last September that killed four Americans, including the ambassador. Military leaders say AQIM has become the wealthiest al-Qaida offshoot and an increasing terrorist threat to the region.

It has long been difficult to track whether there are terrorist ties to piracy in the waters off Africa. But officials are worried that even if Boko Haram insurgents aren’t directly involved in the attacks off Nigeria and Cameroon, they may be reaping some of the profits and using the money for ongoing terrorist training or weapons.

No final decisions have been made on how counter-piracy operations could be increased in that region, and budget restrictions could hamper that effort, said the officials.

But officials say the solution could include continued work and counter-piracy training with African nations.

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