23 December 2012

Somalia: Puntland Frees 22 Pirate Hostages, Arrests 8 Soldiers for Hijacking

Suspected pirates surrender (file photo).

Galkayo — Puntland government forces rescued 22 hostages after a two week standoff with Somali pirates holding the MV Iceberg 1 off of the coast of Puntland's Mudug region, Garowe Online reports.

According to a Puntland government press release, the MV Iceberg 1 vessel and its 22 hostages were released safely on Sunday.

The press release stated that the Puntland forces conducted an operation but did not elaborate on how the operation occurred.

On Dec. 10, Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) attacked pirates holding the MV Iceberg after receiving information that the hostages and pirates were in the same vicinity.

"For a long time, the pirates kept the hostages apart at different locations, but information received by Puntland security agencies indicated that the crewpersons have been returned to the MV Iceberg 1," read a Puntland press release during the standoff, on Dec. 15.

After a failed attempt to rescue the hostages a blockade of the vessel ensued. The PMPF killed three pirates and captured 3 others trying to bring arms and ammunition to the pirates in Gaar'ad village days later.

The hostages who been held for close to 3 years finally regained their freedom on Sunday, after many reports of physical abuse at the hands of pirates.

"After 2 years and 9 months in captivity, the hostages have suffered signs of physical torture and illness. The hostages are now receiving nutrition and medical care," according to the Puntland press release.

8 Puntland soldiers to face military tribunal

In a separate case, a group of soldiers guarding a North Korean registered vessel MV Daesan found dumping spoiled cement near from Bossaso on Nov. 17 was briefly hijacked by the soldiers guarding the ship at the Port of Bossaso.

The 8 soldiers are currently being held in jail and will appear before military tribunal, according to the Puntland government press statement.

Puntland government administers northeastern regions of Somalia since the state government was established in 1998.

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