Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Somali Pirates Seizing WFP Ship Hijack Another Vessel

Somali pirates who have held a UN-chartered ship and its crew hostage for nearly three months have captured another vessel carrying cement from Egypt, according to reports reaching here on Monday.
The Semlow
The incident came within days after the US government issued fresh terror warning against traveling to east Africa, citing piracy in the Somali waters. The ship, Ibnu Batuta, was carrying cement from the north African country when it was attacked near the port of El Maan, near Mogadishu, said the report quoting Abdi Rahman Kariin Olow, aprominent Mogadishu-based businessman, who owns part of the cementshipment. Olow confirmed the ship was hijacked by the same gunmen who on June 28 seized the MV Semlow, which was transporting rice to Somalia for the World Food Program (WFP). He said that he had been contacted by the hijackers. "The hijackers let us speak with the captain of the vessel, who also confirmed that they were taken hostages," he was quoted as saying. It was not clear how many crew were on board or where they came from. Gunmen seized the Semlow off Haradhere, some 300 km northeast of Mogadishu, while it was carrying rice donated by Germany and Japan to assist 28,000 Somalis in the Puntland region whose lives were devastated by last December's tsunami. The WFP-chartered vessel had anchored at the port of El Maan on September 19. After negotiations with representatives of the transitional government of Somalia and the El Maan Port Authority,an agreement to end the crisis was announced last Tuesday evening. The following day, however, the hijackers issued fresh ransom demands and the ship left El Maan after the deadline passed on Thursday. The WFP hijacking was the sixth reported piracy incident in Somali waters since March, including one in early June in which a US naval destroyer intervened to save a vessel under attack. Last week, the US state department renewed its regional terrorism alert for East Africa, warning in particular increasingly violent attempts by Somali pirates to seize commercial ships. The International Maritime Board has also warned of an alarming increase in piracy in Somali waters and has urged ships to avoid the area.

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