Somali pirates new threat to UN food aid

Acts of piracy are increasing in the seas off Somalia. In the past nine months alone, there have been 26 hijackings of international ships and one attempt to board an American-based cruise liner. The figures are up dramatically from only two hijackings al

Somali pirates new threat to UN food aid

Earlier this year, a stunned looking group of North American and European passengers disembarked from their Indian Ocean cruise in Kenya. In the early morning hours, their ship, the Seabourne Spirit, was attacked by about 20 well-armed pirates off the coast of Somalia.

In this case, the ship was able to outrun the pirates.

One passenger said the whole incident was "like a dream."

But what was dreamlike for some has been a nightmare for others.

The MV Semlow, a ship carrying emergency food aid for Somalia, was hijacked in June. Four boatloads of Somali pirates armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades boarded the ship.

Experts believe that of the 32 piracy incidents off the Somali coast this year, all involving large international ships, 24 were carried out by one group.

"There is a major group, which is well-organized, with a group of more than 35 gunmen. This group also has two mother ships which go at high speed and launch small boats which attack merchant ships. This group is called the Somali Marines," said Andrew Mwanguar of the seaman's assistance program.

The Semlow was hired by the UN to carry in 450 tons of food aid for starving people in Somalia. The pirates weren't moved. They demanded a ransom and held the ship and crew for four months.

The reported ransom paid to release this ship was $150,000 US.

After years of civil war, Somalia is dominated by corrupt, violent warlords. Yet its coastline had been fairly safe until this year. It was patrolled by a U.S.-led naval coalition. But in the spring, the coalition shifted its focus north toward the Persian Gulf, saying its mission now is to fight terrorism, not pirates.

The UN is now forced to to use the more time-consuming and expensive method of bringing in food aid by road to the roughly one million Somalis desperately in need.

Source: CBC

Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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