Somalii pirates step up their criminal activity by killing a guard employed to protect World Food Program shipping, as set out here:
A WFP-contracted cargo ship narrowly escaped from hijacking in the port town of Merca, 100 km south of the Somali capital Mogadishu.The UN is demanding actionto cure the "piracy plague" off Somalia, as set out here:
Pirates attempted to hijack the cargo vessel off the coast of Merca as soldiers hired to guard the Merca coast prevented the pirates from taking the ship. There has been an exchange of gunfire that lasted nearly an hour when the coastguards successfully rescued the ship from falling into the control of the pirates.
Hussein Kenyan, Shabelle correspondent in Merca, said one soldier was killed during the gun battle in the Somali Indian Ocean, while it is unclear if there were any casualties on the pirates' side.
THE United Nations has called for international action against "a plague of piracy" off the coast of Somalia that is threatening to cut aid to one million people.
The UN World Food Program (WFP) said the movement of aid supplies to the Horn of African country was under severe threat.
"We urge key nations to do their utmost to address the plague of piracy which is now threatening our ability to feed one million Somalis," WFP executive director, Josette Sheeran, said.
"Unless action is taken now, not only will our supply lines be cut, but also those of other aid agencies working in various parts of Somalia."
Piracy has been rife off Somalia since the country slid into chaos after warlords toppled military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Many pirates claim to be "coastguards" protecting their waters against illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste.
Last year, WFP was forced to suspend aid deliveries for weeks after the hijacking of two ships it had contracted.
In the latest attack yesterday, pirates killed a guard working for a WFP-contracted ship's agent who was among those sent to intercept the pirates after they attempted to hijack the vessel.
The pirates attacked the Jordanian-registered MV Victoria about 110km from Merka, south of Mogadishu. It was on its way to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania after delivering 4000 tonnes of food aid to Merka.
The ship returned to Merka after the guards repulsed the attackers, WFP said.
"WFP is very saddened and alarmed by the death of the guard, who showed great courage while the ship came under attack. We send our condolences to his family," Ms Sheeran said.