12 February 2008

Somalia: U.S. Navy Missiles Strike Coastal Town

Eyl — U.S. Navy warships off of Somalia's northeastern coast fired at least three missiles at locations inside the coastal town of Eyl, local sources reported Tuesday.

One of the missiles hit a part of the town's small airstrip, with the other two missiles landing in the vicinity, a local elder told Garowe Online by telephone.

No one was hurt and there was no damage report.

The U.S. warships have surrounded Russian vessel Svitzer Korsakov, which was captured by suspected pirates on Feb. 4. There are a total of six foreigners abroad the ship and the hijackers have not demanded a ransom payment.

A U.S. Navy spokesman declined to comment on reports that the warships fired off their guns, but only confirmed that the warships were "monitoring" the hijacked vessel.

A local source in Eyl said the missiles were aimed at small boats approaching the Svitzer, with another source suggesting that the boats were "aiding the hijackers" by bringing them materials.

Puntland Energy Minister Hassan "Alore" Osman, who is in Eyl, confirmed to reporters today that he personally visited the location where the missiles hit and there was no damage to report.

But he said the Puntland government was "clueless" regarding the objective of the U.S. warship that fired into parts of Eyl town.

He said Puntland security forces were conducting operations inside Eyl to cut off the supply link between hijackers on board the Russian vessel and their partners on land.

The Svitzer hijackers have refused to accept the "pirate" label and maintain that they are "voluntarily defending" Somalia's coast line from foreign ships.

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