26 February 2007

Somalia: Puntland to Use Force to Free a Hijacked Vessel for WFP

Mogadishu — A food aid vessel for the UN World Food Program is still captive in the coast of the semi-autonomous regional government of Puntland, northeast Somalia.

12 crew members, 6 Kenyans and 6 Sri Lankans, were onboard the MV Rozen, which was heading to its base in the Kenyan coastal town of Mombasa, when it was hijacked by unknown number of Somali gunmen on a speedboat Sunday.

Heybe Ahmed Kulan, a Somali agent for the ship, has told Shabelle by phone from Bosaso, the commercial town in Puntland, that the regional government of Puntland was continuing the efforts to release the ship which is captive somewhere off the coast of Puntland.

A U.S. warship is closing in the area off the Horn of Africa where Somali pirates have pinned the hijacked ship contracted to carry U.N. food aid, a U.N. spokeswoman said on Monday.

It was the third hijacking in two years of a ship hired to carry relief supplies by the U.N.'s World Food Program (WFP).

Puntland ocean resources minister, Saed Mohammed Raage, has told Shabelle by phone that regional government forces would use their military power to release the hijacked ship. "We will not negotiate with the hijackers. We will use our force to free the ship," he said.

WFP spokesperson for Somalia, Saed Warsame, has told Shabelle by phone from the Kenyan capital Nairobi yesterday that pirates hijacked the vessel after it unloaded about 191 tones of WFP aid food in Barnbara port, northwest Somalia.

Warsame said the ship belonged to Motaca Shipping Company based in the Kenyan coastal town of Mombassa. "The vessel was empty, because it unburdened its food load in the ports of Barbara and Bosaso, when it was hijacked by the pirates in Alula in Northeast Somalia, while she was heading towards Mombasa," he said.

This would be the 46th vessel to be hijacked off the coasts of Somalia since Somalia's central effective government collapsed in 1999.

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