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13 April 2009

US Navy snipers have dramatically ended a high-seas standoff with Somali pirates, rescuing a US captain held hostage on a lifeboat for five days, killing three of his four captors. [...] Phillips had been held aboard the lifeboat since the pirates attacked his cargo ship, the US-flagged Maersk Alabama, on Wednesday. The unarmed American crew managed to regain control of the ship, but the pirates captured Phillips and bundled him into the lifeboat as they escaped. The 20-crew ship had been bound for Mombasa, Kenya, carrying provisions for the UN World Food Program, including 4097 tonnes of soya and maize and 990 tonnes of cooking oil for vulnerable populations in Somalia, Uganda and Kenya. It docked safely in the port Saturday and its crew remain onboard while the FBI investigates Wednesday's attack.


10 April 2009

The Somali pirates' hijacking of the 508-foot U.S.-flagged container ship Maersk Alabama two days ago merely crowns a growing trend. [...] There were six attacks this past week alone before the seizure of the American ship, which was carrying food and agricultural products to Mombasa, Kenya, to supply the World Food Program and the U.S. Agency for International Development. At the moment, pirates are holding some 14 ships for ransom. [...] Taming Somali pirates will ultimately require rebuilding the Somali state in such a way that young men can both find viable means of support other than maritime banditry and be subject to law enforcement.


9 April 2009

Warlords and militias terrorizing villages. No functioning government, courts or police. Drought and hunger afflicting half the country. That's the situation in Somalia driving the epidemic of piracy off its coast, experts say. The chaos means there are no easy military or diplomatic solutions for the U.S. and allies to prevent attacks such as the one on the Maersk Alabama on Wednesday. [...] Attempts to alleviate poverty, which could reduce the need for Somalis to turn to crime, have fallen short. The U.N. World Food Program put out a $900 million appeal for aid to Somalia this year, but only 26% has been raised, said Dawn Elizabeth Blalock, a U.N. spokeswoman.


9 April 2009

The U.S.-flagged cargo ship Maersk Alabama is heading to port in Mombasa, Kenya, a day after it was hijacked off Somalia's coast, the father of one of the crew members said Thursday. An 18-man armed security detail is on board to make sure the vessel and the 20 crew members get there safely, Capt. Joe Murphy said. It is about a 50-hour journey. FBI negotiators are trying to secure the release of the Maersk Alabama's captain, who is still being held by the Somali hijackers in a lifeboat. [...] The vessel was carrying relief supplies for USAID, the U.N. World Food Program and the Christian charities WorldVision and Catholic Relief Services. The U.N. agency said its portion of the cargo included nearly 4,100 metric tons of corn-soya blend bound for Somalia and Uganda, and another 990 metric tons of vegetable oil for refugees in Kenya.


6 April 2009

Somalia's prime minister has ordered all aid agencies working in the lawless Horn of Africa nation to register with the new government for their own safety. The country is suffering one of the world's worst humanitarian catastrophes. A two-year Islamist rebellion has killed more than 16,000 civilians, driven another 1 million from their homes and left about 3 million dependent on food aid. Complicating operations for aid workers, large parts of south and central Somalia are under the control of hardline al Shabaab insurgents and allied Islamist fighters.


31 March 2009

A second group of Chinese navy escort ships will set sail for the Gulf of Aden Thursday to replace a flotilla sent earlier to guard against pirates. The new task force will comprise the destroyer, Shenzhen, and frigate Huangshan, as well as the supply ship, Weishanhu, which served in the first escort mission. With two helicopters and total crew exceeding 800, including navy special forces, it is mainly tasked with ensuring the safety of Chinese vessels passing through the gulf and waters off Somalia and those of international organizations like the World Food Program shipping humanitarian goods.


29 March 2009

Somalia's hard-line Islamists on Sunday invited international aid groups to regions under their control to assist thousands of hunger-stricken people. "We are openly calling aid agencies to operate freely in the region in order to help thousands of people in the drought-hit areas of the country," al-Shabab Islamic movement commander Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abuu-Mansoor told reporters. "We appreciate how they have assisted the people in the past and wish they continue doing the same," he added. [...] The World Food Program has offices in Wajid, a major food distribution center for the region. [..] Kidnappings of foreign aid workers and journalists by ransom-seeking armed groups are frequent in conflict-wracked Somalia. U.N. agencies attempting to deliver food aid have been repeatedly targeted. and four WFP employees have been killed since August last year.


26 March 2009

NATO's anti-piracy flotilla will resume patrols off the Horn of Africa soon, joining an international squadron already operating in the region, the alliance said Thursday. A NATO statement said the five ships will reach the pirate-infested waters off the Somali coastline within days. They will do a stint with the anti-piracy patrols there before sailing on for a tour of Southeast Asia. "This is another contribution by the alliance to the overall international effort to tackle piracy in this part of the world," spokesman James Appathurai said. "We have many partners alongside us and it appears that international efforts seem to be having a positive effect." The NATO flotilla, codenamed Allied Provider, is to return to Europe in June but at least some of its warships may stay on station to help monitor the waters of the Gulf of Aden. The flotilla of ships from Portugal, Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States is commanded by a Portuguese admiral. Pirate attacks in the busy sea lanes off the Somali coastline hit unprecedented levels in 2008, and NATO responded to appeals by the United Nations by deploying a three-warship flotilla to escort World Food Program cargo vessels carrying desperately needed food aid to Somalia.


26 March 2009

NATO's anti-piracy flotilla will resume patrols off the Horn of Africa soon, joining an international squadron already operating in the region, the alliance said Thursday. A NATO statement said the five ships will reach the pirate-infested waters off the Somali coastline within days. They will do a stint with the anti-piracy patrols there before sailing on for a tour of Southeast Asia. [...] Pirate attacks in the busy sea lanes off the Somali coastline hit unprecedented levels in 2008, and NATO responded to appeals by the United Nations by deploying a three-warship flotilla to escort World Food Program cargo vessels carrying desperately needed food aid to Somalia.


26 March 2009

Pirates armed with machine guns pursued and captured a Norwegian chemical tanker off the coast of Somalia on Thursday, the owners said, less than 24 hours after a smaller Greek-owned vessel was seized in the same area. The U.S. 5th Fleet, which patrols the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, confirmed both hijackings and said they happened in the same area but separate from the gulf, one of the world's busiest — and now most treacherous — sea lanes. [...] An earlier NATO mission — sent to the region in October in response to appeals by the United Nations — was replaced in December by an EU flotilla. Its main task is to escort cargo ships chartered by the U.N. World Food Program carrying humanitarian aid to Somalia, which has been without a functioning government since 1991.