WASHINGTON — The international community needs to go after the money being extorted by pirates to try to end what has become a scourge on the seas, said the top U.S. naval officer in Africa and Europe.
Adm. Mark Fitzgerald told a Pentagon press conference Thursday that it's no surprise where the money goes. Some is used to resupply pirates with boats and weapons. But leaders in Kenya tell him rich Somalis also are buying up the real estate around the capital of Nairobi and the African nation's port of Mombasa; Ethiopians report that the same thing is happening in their capital of Addis Ababa, Fitzgerald said.
International warships have been capturing pirates for prosecution, an effort that has been faltering lately. In the end, the international community needs to look at the root cause — a poor and lawless Somalia that can't police its land or its coastal waters. That's not likely to be solved anytime soon, and meanwhile, there are other courses that can be pursued aside from looking at real estate purchases, Fitzgerald said.
"The other thing I think we'd be able to trace is the financiers ... the middlemen," he said.
More than two dozen captured pirates are being held on international warships, including 11 suspected pirates who recently attacked two American warships.
Fitzgerald said a package of evidence naval officers collected on five being held on the frigate USS Nicholas has been handed over to proper authorities. A decision still has to be made on where to send them for possible prosecution.
Noting that Kenya doesn't want the responsibility for prosecuting more and Seychelles has taken some in the past, Fitzgerald said "there are other countries that are being approached. That said, obviously we have a lot of concerns about what we do with these pirates when we capture them," he said.