UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
SOMALIA: Hijacked food aid ship allowed to proceed to port
NAIROBI, 16 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - The hijackers of a ship that was transporting food aid meant for survivors of last year's tsunami in Somalia have allowed the vessel to proceed to a port north of the capital, Mogadishu, where it is expected to offload its cargo, a spokeswoman for the UN food agency said on Friday.
The MV Semlow - with its crew of Kenyan, Tanzanian and Sri-Lankan nationals - was commandeered on 27 June between Haradhere and Hobyo, some 400 km northeast of Mogadishu, en route from the Kenyan port of Mombasa, to the Gulf of Aden port of Bossaso, situated in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland.
The vessel had been chartered by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to deliver some 850 tonnes of rice to survivors of the 26 December Indian Ocean tsunami, which devastated much of Somalia's northeastern coastline.
On Wednesday evening, the hijackers allowed the ship to head to the port of El-Maan, where it would deliver the cargo for distribution in central Somalia, said Rene McGuffin, WFP’s spokeswoman. The journey to the port would take three to five days.
"We do see it as a major breakthrough," McGuffin said, adding that WFP was "cautiously optimistic" that the vessel and the 10-member crew would be freed after the offloading of the cargo.
Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) had been asked to provide security at the port during the offloading.
The hijackers allowed the ship to sail to El-Maan after an agreement was reached between community leaders, who acted on behalf of the pirates, and representatives from the TFG.
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