Blackwater founder's FSG signs security deal with Somali region

NAIROBI, June 22(Reuters) - Frontier Services Group (FSG) , co-founded by Erik Prince who created the U.S. security firm Blackwater, said on Thursday it would provide logistics, aviation and security services for a regional development project in Somalia.

Hong Kong-listed FSG said the deal was signed with the Free Zone Investment Authority of the South West State of Somalia, one of the federal regions set up under efforts in the Horn of Africa nation to rebuild its political structures and economy.

The president of the South West State region, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, said in a statement that the project was part of the region’s move to attract local and foreign investors.

Some investment has started returning to Somalia as it recovers from two decades of conflict, but much has come from Somali expatriates and most has focused on Mogadishu. Some Turkish and other foreign firms are among the new investors.

“The project will include an integrated solution of air-land-sea logistics capabilities and advanced security management,” FSG said in a statement about the deal.

South West State’s plans include building a seaport, airport, residential areas and setting up agricultural zones, FSG said in its statement.

“We have brought together strong international business leaders to team-up with talented Somali entrepreneurs to make development in South West Somalia a reality,” the regional president said, according to the FSG statement.

He did not give details about costs or timelines.

The Free Zone Authority’s website offered no further information. The regional president’s office could not be reached for comment.

Many rural areas and small settlements in South West State, which lies south of Mogadishu, are controlled by al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked group which regularly launches attacks in its bid to oust the nation’s Western-backed, federal government.

The Lower Shabelle region, which also lies in South West state, has also suffered clashes between two big, rival clans.

Prince, a former U.S. Navy Seal who is FSG’s executive chairman, founded U.S. military contractor Blackwater which drew international criticism for its actions in Iraq. He later sold Blackwater, which then changed its name. (Additional reporting by Feisal Omar in Mogadishu; Editing by Edmund Blair)