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22 April 2009

Humanitarian workers are worried that clashes in Somalia's central town of Beletweyne, 340km north of Mogadishu, and the current rains, could hinder aid efforts in the area. Hundreds of families have been displaced by the clashes, pitting militias of the Union of Islamic Courts, which supports the Government of National Unity, against the pro-opposition Hisbul-Islami. Mahamud Hassan Guled, a senior public information assistant for the UN World Food Programme (WFP-Somalia), said on 21 April the agency had distributed 3675.52 metric tonnes of food to 181,314 people in Hiiran Region in the last two weeks but "our food distributions to the west of Beletweyne town were affected by the conflict on Monday [20 April]". However, Guled said WFP was hopeful the distributions would continue.


22 April 2009

The U.S. Navy, various European Union Navies, and even South Korea and Japan have sent military vessels to the disputed region. The EU's ``Operation Atalanta'' has currently deployed five frigates from France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Results have paid off. Last year the World Food Program delivered 260,000 tons of humanitarian assistance to Somalia, quadrupling the amount delivered in 2007. Over two million starving Somalis were fed, largely thanks to maritime protection for cargo vessels.


22 April 2009

Dutch marines board a fishing boat and free two dozen Yemenis from Somali pirates. They seize and destroy AK-47s and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher but then put the nine bandits back in their skiff and set them free. (...) Both NATO and the European Union have multinational flotillas operating under a mandate from the U.N. Security Council which tasks them with escorting World Food Program ships and with patrolling the seas around the Horn of Africa. The mandate says nothing about how to treat captured pirates.


22 April 2009

(...) Years ago we used to fish a lot, enough for us to eat and sell in the markets. Then illegal fishing and dumping of toxic wastes by foreign fishing vessels affected our livelihood, depleting the fish stocks. I had no other choice but to join my colleagues. The first hijack I attended was in February 2007 when we seized a World Food Programme-chartered ship with 12 crew. I think it had the name of MV Rozen and we released it after two months, with a ransom.


21 April 2009

Somali pirates have released a Lebanese-owned cargo ship seized last week as it headed to pick up food aid for Africa, a UN spokesman said today. The Togo-flagged MV Sea Horse was released on Friday, UN World Food Program spokesman Peter Smerdon said, citing the ship's operators. He had no more details and it was not known if a ransom was paid. The release was rare good news in the pirate crisis plaguing the Horn of Africa. Pirates still hold at least 17 other ships and around 300 crew. Most ships are held for multi-million-dollar ransoms.


21 April 2009

Somali pirates have released a Togo-flagged vessel that was seized last week, the World Food Programme said Monday. Pirates on four skiffs seized the 5,000-ton MV Sea Horse on Tuesday. "We hear from the operators of the ship that it was released on Friday," said Peter Smerdon, spokesman for the World Food Program in Nairobi. The ship was not under U.N. charter at the time of the hijacking. But it was on its way to Mumbai, India, to inaugurate a new route for the organization to deliver food from India to Mogadishu, Somalia, Smerdon said. Piracy is rampant in the Gulf of Aden off the coasts of Somalia and Kenya with vessels seized regularly and often released only after a large ransom is paid.


21 April 2009

Pirates let the Sea Horse go after two Dubai-based Somali businessmen intervened and paid off the pirates, said Somali clan elder Abdisalan Khalif Ahmed. The pair had been contracted by the World Food Program to pick up and deliver the food, he told The Associated Press from Harardhere, the Somali port where the freighter had been hauled to by pirates. The businessmen "pledged to cover the expenses of the pirates who have been out to sea for ten days," Ahmed said. (..) The U.N. food agency denied any knowledge of a ransom being paid, but ships are usually freed only after their owners pay multimillion-dollar ransoms, sometimes dropped in cash from helicopters directly onto ship decks. (...) The U.N. food agency is feeding 3.5 million Somalis this year, about half the country's people. Most food is delivered by sea because flights are too expensive and roads are plagued by bandits.


21 April 2009

Somali pirates have released a Togo-flagged cargo ship seized last week, a U.N. aid agency said on Monday, but it was unclear whether a ransom was paid for the nearly 5,000-tonne vessel. Sea gangs have made millions of dollars in ransoms by hijacking commercial vessels in busy Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean shipping lanes, linking Europe to Asia, despite foreign navies patrolling the Somali coast. "We hear from the operator that it was released," said Peter Smerdon, spokesman for the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP). The MV Sea Horse was on its way to pick up food for the aid group when it was hijacked but it was not under U.N. charter.


21 April 2009

Somali pirates released a hijacked ship when they learned it was picking up food aid for their hungry countrymen, a Somali clan elder said Monday. The Lebanese-owned ship, the Sea Horse, was hijacked last Tuesday as it headed to India to pick up more than 7,300 tons of food destined for Somalia, the United Nations World Food Program said. The pirates released the ship and were paid “a reward” of $100,000 on Sunday by two Somali businessmen for freeing the aid ship, according to a pirate in Xarardheere, Somalia, who claimed to be part of the gang that captured the ship.


20 April 2009

The Canadian frigate HMCS Winnipeg helped foil an attack by Somali pirates on a Norwegian oil tanker, and briefly detained seven gunmen after hunting them down under cover of darkness, NATO officials said yesterday. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, speaking from the Summit of the Americas in the Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, was quick to congratulate the ship's crew "for the tremendous work they have been doing, the tremendous achievements in the Gulf of Aden." [...] Mr. Harper said Canada has been working for some time off the Horn of Africa, in particular to assist United Nations World Food Programme shipments that are vulnerable to piracy. "We obviously act within our legal authorities and within our capacities, and in this case, as you know, we did briefly detain pirates and disarm them," he said. On Saturday, Dutch commandos freed 20 Yemeni hostages and also briefly detained seven pirates who had forced the Yemenis to sail a "mother ship" attacking vessels in the Gulf of Aden.