22 May 2008

Somalia: Held Vessel Has Arms, Claim Pirates

Nairobi — Somalia pirates who hijacked a Jordanian vessel last weekend now claim that it is carrying arms to Somalia and must be opened to verify its cargo.

Seafarers assistance programme coordinator, Andrew Mwangura said the new development was likely to delay the release of the 12 crew members, who include three Kenyans.

May take long

Mr Mwangura, who quoted sources that are in contact with the vessel, said the verification of the cargo may take long because the sea was too rough at the moment.

"The latest allegations by the hijackers will force the owner of the vessel to open it to verify its cargo," said Mr Mwangura, noting that it is not possible to open the ship at this time because of the prevailing weather conditions.

"The sea is rough at the moment and we may have to wait until August when the sea calms down for the cargo to be verified... the situation at the moment is complicated and we are asking the international community to help in resolving the crisis," Mr Mwangura said.

He urged the Kenyan Government to stop transacting businesses with Somalia as a strategy to reduce piracy.

"The Kenyan Government should stop illegal fishing in Somalia and the transportation of miraa in order to reduce piracy.

Three Kenyans

"It is discouraging that there is no Government official who appears to be concerned with the three Kenyans who are among the crew on the ship," said Mr Mwangura.

The Jordanian vessel, MV Victoria, which was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia on Saturday, was carrying 4,200 tonnes of relief sugar to Somalia.

The crew members are from Tanzanian, Pakistan, Somalia and Bangladesh.

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