Lawless, chaotic Somalia appears to be a land of opportunity for controversial Blackwater security company founder Erik Prince. The ex Blackwater honcho—who has left the security company he created and set up shop in the United Arab Emirates—is involved in a project to recruit and train thousands of Somalis to protect leaders and battle pirates and Islamic militants, the New York Times reports. The multimillion-dollar project involves a controversial South African mercenary firm and is being funded by several Arab countries, American officials say. Prince built Blackwater into a global giant with billions of dollars worth of contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, where employees were accused of recklessly violent behavior in the killing of several civilians.
Prince's precise role in the current operation isn't clear. Critics fear that the use of unaccountable private contractors will undercut international efforts to halt militancy in Somalia, although the chief of one security firm welcomes Prince's involvement. "There are 34 nations with naval assets trying to stop piracy and it can only be stopped on land," the director of Maritime Underwater Security Consultants tells AP. "With Prince's background and rather illustrious reputation, I think it's quite possible that it might work."