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Puntland hires anti-piracy security firm: US officials

Somalia's breakaway Puntland state has hired a private security firm to fight piracy but Washington is concerned about the program's funding, aims and scope, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Friday.

File photo of an armed pirate keeping vigil along the coastline at Hobyo town, northeastern Somalia. Somalia's breakaway Puntland state has hired a private security firm to fight piracy but Washington is concerned about the program's funding, aims and scope.

"The US is aware Puntland authorities are contracting with a private security company to assist them in counter-piracy," Lieutenant Colonel Tamara Parker told AFP.

"However, we have not been consulted. We are concerned about the lack of transparency regarding the program's funding, objectives and scope," Parker added without elaborating.

"We're also concerned this program could potentially violate the 1992 UN Security Council arms embargo on Somalia," she said

UN resolution 733, adopted in January 1992 slapped a complete and general arms embargo on Somalia, but a number of exemptions were granted in subsequent years.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley has echoed the remarks and said the US government "might have some awareness of who is involved" in the anti-piracy program but would not elaborate.

The US and other navies have deployed dozens of warships to patrol the region's waters but have failed to stem piracy, one of the few thriving businesses for coastal communities in Somalia, a country devastated by war and poverty.

Over the past two years, marauding sea-jackers on skiffs equipped with RPGs, ladders and grapnels have moved away from the heavily patrolled Gulf of Aden and expanded their area of operations east and south in the Indian Ocean.

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