NAIROBI - Ransoms paid to Somali pirates to free merchant vessels are ending up in the hands of Islamist militants, laying shipping groups open to accusations of breaching international sanctions, UN officials told Reuters.
John Steed, the principal military adviser to the UN special envoy to Somalia and head of the envoy's counter-piracy unit, said links between armed pirate gangs and Somalia's al Qaida-affiliated rebels were gradually firming.
Ransom demands have risen steadily in recent years. According to one study, the average ransom stood at $5.4 million in 2010, up from $150,000 in 2005, helping Somali pirates rake in nearly $240 million last year.
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