Daniel Howden: If money's the motive, maybe it's the solution, too

>The various military solutions to Somalia's crisis have achieved little or nothing

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The release of Judith Tebbutt marks the end of her own dreadful ordeal in the Horn of Africa, but also underlines that in spite of the intense international attention paid to Somalia, cases such as hers are business as usual for the country's kidnap gangs.

Claims made at the time of her violent capture – that pirate gangs were working with the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab – have been dropped, and it seems clearer than ever that her seizure was for financial gain rather than a political motive.

Mrs Tebbutt was at pains to point out the relatively good treatment she received from a group who profited by an unknown amount from the killing of her husband and her own six-month detention.

But the fact that she was given medicine to help her recover from several bouts of illness while in Somalia should not be confused with humanitarian interest from her captors, but rather as good business sense during negotiations over her ransom.

Her experience appears to suggest that pirate gangs and the pirate economy have responded to tougher conditions at sea, where international warships have stepped up patrols, by diversifying into land-based kidnappings.

The fear expressed at the time of her capture that she might be used as a bargaining chip by Somali Islamists has turned out to be empty. Meanwhile, the consequences of the drastic military operations launched under the cover of putting an end to kidnappings continue to be felt throughout the region.

The various military solutions to Somalia's crisis have done little or nothing to address the economic nature of the crimes being committed.

At least among the tough-talking at last month's Somalia conference in London there was some space given to the suggestion that solutions to the piracy crisis might lie in economic alternatives.

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