UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
SOMALIA: TFG seeks help to police coastline as pirates strike again
NAIROBI, 13 Oct 2005 (IRIN) - Amid escalating incidents of sea piracy, Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has urged its neighbours and the international community to help police the Somali coastline.
The appeal followed the hijacking on Wednesday of a ship chartered by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to deliver food aid to the Lower Juba Valley in southern Somalia.
It was the second WFP-chartered vessel to be commandeered within four months. On 27 June pirates commandeered the MV Semlow, which was loaded with 850 tonnes of rice for tsunami survivors. It was released on 4 October after being held by for almost 100 days.
Wednesday's hijacking occurred as the ship off-loaded its cargo in the beach port of Merka, 100 km south of the capital, Mogadishu.
The government spokesman, Abdirahman Dinari, said on Thursday that the TFG lacked "the means to police the long coastline and is appealing to our neighbours from Sudan to South Africa to help end this menace". He indicated that such help would include equipment to "monitor the coastal waters".
Dinari added that the TFG strongly condemned the hijacking.
"We are calling on the captors to release the ship, its crew and the food aid without any conditions," he declared. The pirates were "preying on aid meant for their own people", he added.
A local journalist who was on the scene in Merka said six gunmen masquerading as porters had boarded the Mombasa-based, St Vincent and The Grenadines-registered MV Miltzow and forced the ship to leave the port.
"The hijackers were carrying hidden pistols and pretended to be porters," he reported. Once on board, the pirates disarmed the two guards.
WFP condemned the latest hijacking and called for the immediate release of the MV Miltzow.
"It is scandalous that a small number of profiteers would once again hijack humanitarian food supplies destined for fellow Somalis," Robert Hauser, WFP country director for Somalia, said in a statement.
The vessel was reported to be off Barava, 100 km southeast of Merka. Contact had been established with the hijackers in an attempt to resolve the problem, Leo van der Velden, WFP's deputy country director for Somalia, said.
He added that it was "not clear at all" what the hijackers were demanding.
Two of the 10 crew members reportedly escaped as the pirates entered the vessel and were now in Merka. "They jumped from the ship with the porters when the hijackers took control," the journalist said.
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