19 October 2005

Kenya: Armed Escort for Hijacked Ships Turns Back

Nairobi — An armed escort for two Kenyan-registered ships that were hijacked by pirates in Somalia has retreated after encountering rough seas.

The ships, which were released with their 20 crew members, left El Maan port in Somalia last Monday for Mombasa.

The ships' agent, Mr Karim Kudrati, said El Maan port authorities on Monday dispatched two boats with armed officers and three seamen to escort the vessels, Mv Semlow and Mv Miltzow, to Mombasa.

But Kudrati, who was speaking to The Standard in Mombasa, said the boats carrying the armed escort retreated after encountering rough seas about 10km from El Maan.

He said initially the armed officers were to escort the ships and their crew up to the Somalia-Kenya border.

But despite the security setback, he said, the captains of the two vessels continued with the journey to Mombasa. He hoped the ships would dock at Mombasa by the weekend.

"I expect the two ships to arrive in Mombasa within the week," he said, adding that the Mv Torgelow, which had also been hijacked, might be at Haradheere, Somalia.

He said Somali businessmen were negotiating with the gunmen to release the ship and its ten crew, who include nine Kenyans and a Sri Lankan.

The World Food Programme confirmed that the vessels had left El Maan for Mombasa after offloading 1,700 tonnes of relief food.

Mv Semlow, which had eight Kenyans, a Tanzanian and a Sri Lankan captain, was hijacked on June 27 at Haradheere. Mv Miltzow, which had nine Kenyans and a Ugandan, was hijacked on October 12 and released the following day.

The vessels were carrying 850 metric tonnes of relief cargo.

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