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Wednesday, March 30, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

U.S. firm blocked on training contract in Somalia

CAIRO — A U.S.-backed private security firm has been blocked from a training contract in Somalia.


Saracen International said its program to train 1,050 men in Somalia's northern region of Puntland was suspended.

Saracen, in a deal that was said to have violated the United Nations arms embargo on Somalia, had been contracted to build a force that could fight both Al Qaida as well as Somali pirates who operated in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea.

"This decision was reached after close consultation with the UN, and with the full support and concurrence of the government of Puntland, to allow international donor states to comply with all of the UN notification requirements for this activity," Saracen chief operating officer Lafras Luitingh said.

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Saracen has been linked to key figures in the United States, including Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater USA, once a leading security provider in Iraq. Saracen, registered in Lebanon but based on staff from South Africa, established several facilities for the training mission in Puntland, a region largely autonomous of the central government in Mogadishu.

Executives said Saracen completed one training course of 200 cadets. They said the company has stopped receiving government money for the project.

In January, the Somali parliament canceled a Saracen contract to train security forces in Mogadishu. Executives said this contract was also canceled amid U.S. and European Union pressure.

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