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Blackwater founder reportedly involved in Somalia

Erik Prince, the founder of the private — and embattled — private military contractor Blackwater (now Xe) is reportedly engaged with a South African organization to provide security for Somalia’s battered government.

The New York Times reports Prince is involved with Saracen International. The company is based in South Africa and has been tied to actions in Uganda and other African countries. The Times reports Saracen is very reticent to discuss who its employees are, however, it is believed to employ Lafras Luitingh.

Luitingh used to work for an apartheid era government agency called South Africa’s Civil Cooperation Bureau. That agency was an internal security agency tied to the deaths of government opponents.

While the cooperation between the two agencies itself is not big news, the bigger question of ‘why Somalia?’ is. Here’s how the Times explains it:

With its barely functional government and a fierce hostility to foreign armies since the hasty American withdrawal from Mogadishu in the early 1990s, Somalia is a country where Western militaries have long feared to tread. This has created an opportunity for private security companies like Saracen to fill the security vacuum created by years of civil war.

The country has become a source for piracy as well as a source for Al Qaeda recruits and activities. In fact, as the Times points out, the country is mostly controlled by the Shabab.

An African Union memo from Jan. 12 indicates Prince “is at the top of the management chain of Saracen and provided seed money for the Saracen contract.”

The State Department has expressed concerns about Saracen International because of its lack of transparency.

As for Prince, a native of Holland, he is living in Abu Dhabi in part to prevent the numerous lawsuits against Blackwater from reaching into his personal fortune.

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