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UN Food Aid Ship Remains Seized Off Somali Coast

Hijackers Renege On Deal To Release UN Food Aid Ship Seized Off Somali Coast

Hijackers have reneged on an agreement to release a United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) ship which they seized off the Somali coast three months ago while it was on its way to feed 28,000 tsunami survivors, and the Agency today declared all accords with the interim government on the issue null and void.

“WFP demands the unconditional release of the vessel, its crew and cargo,” WFP Somalia Deputy Country Director Leo van der Velden, said of the MV Semlow, seized by pirates on 27 June while on its way from Mombasa, Kenya, with a 10-man crew and 850 tons of rice for the Puntland region in northern Somalia.

“The crew members have suffered long enough and the humanitarian cargo has unlawfully been denied to the people who need it. We call upon the community leaders, politicians and members of civil society in Harardhere, where most of the pirates come from, to intervene to end this ordeal peacefully, and no longer to stand passively by,” he added.

Under an agreement reached agreements with Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and community leaders, the hijackers were to release the ship but they then added new ransom demands. An ultimatum to them to leave the vessel and allow off-loading of the cargo by yesterday passed without response.

“It is now clear that the hijackers are not demonstrating any meaningful actions towards finding the necessary resolution of this problem,” Mr. van der Velden said. “In the light of their failure to comply with the deal reached this week and the earlier agreement to end the crisis on 5 August, we have no choice but to declare that from our standpoint, the agreements reached so far are null and void.”

WFP has since replaced the Puntland food with another shipment and under the 5 August agreement between the Agency, community leaders and TFG representatives, elders and community leaders on behalf of the hijackers were to release the ship and allow it to sail to the port of El Maan. The food was to be handed over to the TFG and the crew and vessel allowed to travel on to Mombasa, in neighbouring Kenya.

This is the first time in WFP history that a ship carrying relief food has been hijacked.

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