The hijackers of a food aid-laden vessel off the northeastern coast of Somalia in June have not off-loaded any of its cargo as has been reported by various media, a local official told IRIN on Thursday.
"Nothing has been removed from the ship and no food from it has been to our markets," Muhammad Shaykh, the district commissioner of the central Somalian town of Haradhere, said.
He was reacting to media reports that the hijackers had off-loaded some of the food aid from the ship and were selling it in markets in and around Haradhere, where the ship is anchored.
Muhammad said the seas around Haradhere were "rough at this time of year and no one can off-load anything".
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it was attempting to verify the conflicting reports about the ship and its cargo.
Yesterday, I swear, Reuters reported the ship was being off-loaded and included quotes about how commodity prices in the local markets had dropped as a result. UPDATE: BBC Report - looks like they fell for the Reuters quotes, too.
It just gets curiouser and curiouser.
UPDATE: 8/18/05 According to the People's Daily Online, some cargo has been moved:
The pirates, who have been demanding the 850 tons of rice intended for Somali tsunami victims in return for the release of the ship, reportedly started removing food from the vessel on Monday.How nice.
"They have been taking small amounts of food from the ship for the past three days," reports quoted Ahmed Abdi, clan elder as saying.
Abdi said the pirates have informed residents of the town that they have "permission" to remove the cargo.
Speaking in Mogadishu by radio, Abdi said that the hijackers are using "one small boat" to remove the rice, but could not estimate how much has been taken or say exactly what will happen to the food, which is being stored in a makeshift warehouse.
However, Abdi said the pirates told residents that at least some of the cargo will be used to repay local shopkeepers from whom they have been "borrowing" food, water and supplies during the ship's seven-week captivity.
UPDATE: 8/19/05-- I'm not quite sure what the WFP spokesman meant by this:
WFP decried that 54 days have passed since the pirates took the crew captive yet there has not been any intervention from the international community.I prefer to think that he means more publicity would have been given to the hostages had they been from wealthier countries.
"The hostages are not Italian, French or American. There are no discussions of the hijackers asking for millions of dollars to set them free," it said.
"As it drags through its eighth week, the story of the 10-man crew aboard the MV Semlow off Somalia, who were simply trying to bring food aid to a hungry nation, only sometimes makes headlines in their home countries," WFP added.
The WFP, which chartered the Semlow, said it has heard from theship's agents that while food supplies for the crew were adequate,drinking water was rationed, adding that the conditions for the crew, confined to the ship and held under duress, "are undoubtedly difficult."
"It must be a terrible, and a very worrying ordeal for all 10 of them stuck on that ship still anchored 45 km from the Somali coast. The poor families of the crew have waited too long to see their loved ones safe," Hauser lamented. (source)
UPDATE: (8/20/05) Now it asserted here that the crew may soon be freed.