Sunday, November 04, 2007

Somalia: Pirates leave two South Korean fishing boats, remain on other captured ships

Somali pirates, who may have received ransom prior to their actions, appear to have released two previously captured South Korean fishing trawlers, which then came under U.S. Navy protection (if I read the story correctly), as set out here:
Somali pirates gave up control of two ships hijacked months earlier and U.S. Navy escorted the boats to safer waters Sunday as it stepped up efforts to bring security to the seas off the chaotic Horn of Africa nation.

The pirates climbed into small skiffs and headed back to Somalia after speaking by radio to U.S. naval personnel. A Navy ship and helicopter guided the South Korean-owned boats Mavuno 1 and 2 further out to sea.

It was the third time in a week the U.S. has intervened to help ships hijacked by Somali pirates. Sailors boarded a North Korean ship to give medical assistance to crew members who overpowered their hijackers, and a U.S. naval vessel fired on pirate skiffs tied to a Japanese-owned ship.

Naval personnel boarded the South Korean-owned ships and gave medical checkups to the crew, said Cmdr. Lydia Robertson of the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. No injuries were reported. The two Tanzanian-flagged boats were seized May 15.

The Navy was also urging pirates to leave the Japanese ship and two hijacked boats in the region and sail back to Somalia, she told The Associated Press.

"We're very happy with this development and hope it happens with the other ships off the coast," Robertson said. She gave no indication of the content of the conversations.
South Korea said all 24 sailors on board the two ships freed Sunday were safe. The Foreign Ministry said the ships were being escorted to Aden port in Yemen at the request of the South Korean government. The two dozen sailors included 10 Chinese, four South Koreans, three Vietnamese, three Indians and four Indonesians.

"The government strongly condemns the international pirate activities that resulted in innocent sailors seized in high seas and held in captivity for a long time," the ministry said.

South Korea said it appreciated the U.S. and Somalian help in freeing the men.

South Korean media have reported that the Somali pirates were demanding between $700,000 and $1 million in ransom. Robertson made no comment on ransom demands, deferring to the shipping company.

Last year, another South Korean fishing vessel was captured off Somalia and released three months later after a ransom of more than $800,000 was paid.
In a somewhat related story, the U.S. Navy was accused of "abandoning" the North Korean ship hijacked by pirates despite allegations of the North Korean vessel being engaged in suspicious activity...as set out here:
The US Navy has abandoned a North Korean cargo vessel off the Somali coast despite a call for its detention for alleged involvement in "suspicious activities," an official said Saturday.

"We did not detain the North Korean vessel ... We are not monitoring the ship," said Lydia Robertson, the spokeswoman for US Naval Forces Central Command.

Robertson did not indicate whether the vessel was probed by the US naval team, part of the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa (CTF 150), based in Djibouti to fight terrorism in the volatile region.

A US Navy destroyer was earlier tracking both North Korea's MV Dai Hong Dan and Japanese chemical tanker Golden Mori off Somalia after engaging pirates who had hijacked the vessels.

The Kenyan branch of the Seafarers Assistance Programme had urged the US Navy to detain the North Korean freighter and bring it to the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, where it would be searched.

The programme has suspected the vessel of using a fake name an involvement in unlawful activities in Somalia, a lawless African nation that has been wracked by war for 16 years.
UPDATE: I'm not sure the "Kenyan branch of the Seafarers Assistance Programme" has a full understanding of what might follow if the U.S. Navy detained a North Korean freighter under such circumstances...

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