The U.S. military commander for Africa says he believes Islamists fighting the U.N.-backed Somali government are getting some funding from piracy there and that al-Qaida militants will link with the pirates one day too.

Army Gen. Carter Ham told senators at a hearing Thursday that the extremist threat coming from East Africa is the biggest concern of his U.S. Africa Command.

Ham says he believes the al-Shabaab movement fighting the government gets at least some economic support from pirate activity. Ham says that given that al-Qaida has links to al-Shabaab, it's only a matter of time before al-Qaida becomes associated with pirates as well.