A Return of the Barbary Pirates – 07/30/2014

“The cash filled three suitcases: 5 million euros.”

“The German official charged with delivering this cargo arrived here aboard a nearly empty military plane and was whisked away to a secret meeting with the president of Mali, who had offered Europe a face-saving solution to a vexing problem. ”

“Officially, Germany had budgeted the money as humanitarian aid for the poor, landlocked nation of Mali.
In truth, all sides understood that the cash was bound for an obscure group of Islamic extremists who were holding 32 European hostages, according to six senior diplomats directly involved in the exchange.”

“The suitcases were loaded onto pickup trucks and driven hundreds of miles north into the Sahara, where the bearded fighters, who would soon become an official arm of Al Qaeda, counted the money on a blanket thrown on the sand. The 2003 episode was a learning experience for both sides. Eleven years later, the hand-off in Bamako has become a well-rehearsed ritual, one of dozens of such transactions repeated all over the world.”

” Kidnapping Europeans for ransom has become a global business for Al Qaeda, bankrolling its operations across the globe.”

“While European governments deny paying ransoms, an investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have taken in at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66 million was paid just last year.”

“In news releases and statements, the United States Treasury Department has cited ransom amounts that, taken together, put the total at around $165 million over the same period. ”

“These payments were made almost exclusively by European governments, who funneled the money through a network of proxies, sometimes masking it as development aid, according to interviews conducted for this article with former hostages, negotiators, diplomats and government officials in 10 countries in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The inner workings of the kidnapping business were also revealed in thousands of pages of internal Qaeda documents found by this reporter while on assignment for The Associated Press in northern Mali last year.”

“In its early years, Al Qaeda received most of its money from deep-pocketed donors, but counterterrorism officials now believe the group finances the bulk of its recruitment, training and arms purchases from ransoms paid to free Europeans. ”

“Put more bluntly, Europe has become an inadvertent underwriter of Al Qaeda. ”

“The foreign ministries of Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland denied in emails or telephone interviews that they had paid the terrorists. “The French authorities have repeatedly stated that France does not pay ransoms,” said Vincent Floreani, deputy director of communication for France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Several senior diplomats involved in past negotiations have described the decision to pay ransom for their countries’ citizens as an agonizing calculation: Accede to the terrorists’ demand, or allow innocent people to be killed, often in a gruesome, public way? ”

“Yet the fact that Europe and its intermediaries continue to pay has set off a vicious cycle.”

“”Kidnapping for ransom has become today’s most significant source of terrorist financing,” said David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a 2012 speech. “Each transaction encourages another transaction.” ”

“And business is booming: While in 2003 the kidnappers received around $200,000 per hostage, now they are netting up to $10 million, money that the second in command of Al Qaeda’s central leadership recently described as accounting for as much as half of his operating revenue.”

“”Kidnapping hostages is an easy spoil,” wrote Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, “which I may describe as a profitable trade and a precious treasure.””

“The stream of income generated is so significant that internal documents show that as long as five years ago, Al Qaeda’s central command in Pakistan was overseeing negotiations for hostages grabbed as far afield as Africa. Moreover, the accounts of survivors held thousands of miles apart show that the three main affiliates of the terrorist group — Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in northern Africa; Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in Yemen; and the Shabab, in Somalia — are coordinating their efforts and abiding by a common kidnapping protocol.”

 The Barbary pirates, sometimes called Barbary corsairs or Ottoman corsairs, were pirates and privateerswho operated from North Africa, based primarily in the ports of SaléAlgiersTunis, and Tripoli. This area was known in Europe as the Barbary Coast, a term derived from the name of its Berber inhabitants. Their predation extended throughout the Mediterranean, south along West Africa‘s Atlantic seaboard and evenSouth America, and into the North Atlantic as far north as Iceland, but they primarily operated in the western Mediterranean. In addition to seizing ships, they engaged in Razziasraids on European coastal towns and villages, mainly in Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal, but also in the British Isles, the Netherlands and as far away as Iceland. The main purpose of their attacks was to capture Christian slaves for the Ottoman slave trade as well as the general Muslim market in North Africa and the Middle East.

“While such raids had occurred since soon after the Muslim conquest of the region, the terms Barbary piratesand Barbary corsairs are normally applied to the raiders active from the 16th century onwards, when the frequency and range of the slavers’ attacks increased and Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli came under the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire, either as directly administered provinces or as autonomous dependencies known as the Barbary States. Similar raids were undertaken from Salé and other ports inMorocco.”

“Corsairs captured thousands of ships, and long stretches of coast in Spain and Italy were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants, discouraging settlement until the 19th century. From the 16th to 19th century, corsairs captured an estimated 800,000 to 1.25 million people as slaves. Some corsairs were European outcasts and converts such as John Ward and Zymen DansekerHayreddin Barbarossa and Oruç Reis, the Barbarossa brothers, who took control of Algiers on behalf of the Ottomans in the early 16th century, were also famous corsairs. The European pirates brought advanced sailing and shipbuilding techniques to the Barbary Coast around 1600, which enabled the corsairs to extend their activities into theAtlantic Ocean, and the impact of Barbary raids peaked in the early to mid-17th century.”

“The scope of corsair activity began to diminish in the latter part of the 17th century, as the more powerful European navies started to compel the Barbary States to make peace and cease attacking their shipping. However, the ships and coasts of Christian states without such effective protection continued to suffer until the early 19th century. Following the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna in 1814–15, European powers agreed upon the need to suppress the Barbary corsairs entirely and the threat was largely subdued, although occasional incidents continued until finally terminated by the French conquest of Algiers in 1830.”

“The First Barbary War (1801–1805), also known as the Tripolitan War or the Barbary Coast War, was the first of two wars fought between the United States and the Northwest African Berber Muslim states known collectively as the Barbary States. These were the Ottoman provinces of TripoliAlgiers, and Tunis, which were enjoying a large autonomy, as well as the independent Sultanate of Morocco. The war was fought because U.S. President Thomas Jefferson refused to pay the high tributes demanded by the Barbary states and because they were seizing American merchant ships and enslaving the crews for high ransoms. It was the first declared war the United States fought on foreign land and seas.”

“The Moro Pirates, also known as the Sulu Pirates, were Muslim outlaws of the southern Philippines who engaged in frequent acts of piracy, primarily against the Spanish, beginning in the late 16th century. Because of the continual wars between Spain and the Moro people, the areas in and around the Sulu Sea became a haven for piracy which was not suppressed until the beginning of the 20th century. The pirates should not be confused with the naval forces or privateers of the various Moro tribes. However, many of the pirates operated under government sanction during time of war.”

“Of the 53 hostages known to have been taken by Qaeda’s official branches in the past five years, a third were French. And small nations like Austria, Spain and Switzerland, which do not have large expatriate communities in the countries where the kidnappings occur, account for over 20 percent of the victims.”

“By contrast, only three Americans are known to have been kidnapped by Al Qaeda or its direct affiliates, representing just 5 percent of the total.”

“”For me, it’s obvious that Al Qaeda is targeting them by nationality,” said Jean-Paul Rouiller, the director of the Geneva Center for Training and Analysis of Terrorism, who helped set up Switzerland’s counterterrorism program. “Hostages are an investment, and you are not going to invest unless you are pretty sure of a payout.”
Mr. Cohen, the United States under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said information gathered by the Treasury Department suggested that Al Qaeda may no longer want to kidnap Americans, a tectonic shift from a decade ago. ”

“Western countries have signed numerous agreements calling for an end to ransom paying, including as recently as last year at a G8 summit, where some of the biggest ransom payers in Europe signed a declaration agreeing to stamp out the practice. Yet according to hostages released this year and veteran negotiators, governments in Europe — especially France, Spain and Switzerland — continue to be responsible for some of the largest payments, including a ransom of €30 million — about $40 million — paid last fall to free four Frenchmen held in Mali.”

“A presidential adviser in Burkina Faso who has helped secure the release of several of the Westerners held in the Sahara said he routinely dealt with aggressive Western diplomats who demanded the release of Qaeda fighters held in local prisons in an effort to win the release of their hostages, often one of the additional demands kidnappers make.”

“”You would not believe the pressure that the West brings to bear on African countries,” he said. “It’s you, the West, who is their lifeblood,” he said. “It’s you who finances them.””

We really are not that very far today from “Increasing friction between France and Algerine pirates culminated when the Dey of Algiers slapped the French consul’s face (April 30, 1827). The French monarch sought to reverse his domestic unpopularity and used the slapping incident to justify a blockade of Algiers for the next three years. During the subsequent blockade, a French ship bearing negotiators and flying a flag of truce was fired upon by the Algerians (August 3, 1829). France used the failure of the blockade as a reason for a military expedition against Algiers in 1830.”

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101877574?trknav=homestack:topnews:11
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbary_pirates
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Barbary_War
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moro_Pirates
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhX8_mg5AVw
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_conquest_of_Algeria

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