WFP has said that Puntland authorities this morning arrested four men whom they say were part of a group that hijacked a WFP-contracted ship off the north eastern coast of Somalia.
Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world, and there are families whose lives depend on our ability to get food aid through
WFP Somalia’s Country Director Peter Goossens
The men were arrested when they went ashore to buy supplies in the town of Bargal. However some four hijackers remain in control of the MV Rozen.
“The arrest is welcome news, but the safe release of the crew and the vessel remains our chief concern. We very much hope this ordeal will finish soon,” said WFP Somalia’s Country Director Peter Goossens.
Since yesterday, the ship has been anchored six miles off the coast of the Puntland region of Somalia, near Bargal.
It is reported to be surrounded by five of the Puntland authorities’ police boats. Latest reports indicate the ship is now sailing southwards.
The vessel was hijacked on Sunday morning (25 February) off the northeastern coast of Somalia in the region of Puntland, with six Sri Lankan and six Kenyan crew members on board.
It had earlier delivered 1800 metric tons of food aid to ports at Berbera and to Bossaso, and was sailing empty to Mombasa in Kenya.
“We are appealing for the safe return of the crew and the vessel as soon as possible, and for people to respect the need for humanitarian delivery corridors. Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world, and there are families whose lives depend on our ability to get food aid through,” Goossens said.
WFP remains in close contact with Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), the Puntland authorities, and with the vessel’s agents.
Drought and floods
In 2005, because of piracy in Somali waters WFP temporarily had to suspend deliveries of food aid by sea for some weeks.
However since then sea deliveries have been uninterrupted, even during the worst days of the conflict between the TFG and the Union of Islamic Courts (ICU) at the end of last year.
In 2006, WFP delivered some 78,000 metric tonnes of relief food to 1.4 million people affected by drought and floods in southern Somalia.