Somali piracy becoming "criminal enterprise"
* Piracy now an organised, transnational criminal network
* Piracy risks becoming ingrained in Somali society
By Caroline Copley
LONDON, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Somali piracy has evolved into a transnational, organised criminal network that risks becoming ingrained in the country's economic and social structures, the head of the U.S counter-piracy unit said on Wednesday.
Attacks on vessels off the coast of Somalia have been growing rapidly since 2007 as young Somalis in small skiffs with their AK-47s and rocket propelled grenades take to the waters to seek their fortunes.
Donna L. Hopkins, coordinator of Counter Piracy and Maritime Security for the U.S. government, said it had become apparent that other nationalities were hoping to reap the benefits of what has become an increasingly lucrative activity.
"Somali piracy has grown from being essentially a garden variety, local, off the coast protest against illegal fishing ... into a seriously networked and capable, transnational, organised and criminal enterprise," she said.
"We think there are other fishermen, fishermen other than Somali nationality, who are colluding in this business and helping to share the spoils." Continued...