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Israeli experts say that there are many “factors” pointing to common interests and operational modes between terrorists and pirates in that region .
The U.S. and some of its allies are evaluating different plans to increase anti-piracy operations along Africa’s west coast. This because they fear that money from the attacks is funding a Nigerian-based insurgent group 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 (AQIM), 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 a difficult task 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.
There are no explicit decisions about how counter-piracy operations could be increased in that region, and budget restrictions could hamper that effort.
But officials say the solution could include continued work and counter-piracy training with African nations. The U.S. participated last month in a maritime exercise with European and African partners in the Gulf of Guinea.