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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Somalia: Puntland soldiers fire at pirates

Reported as Puntland troops trade fire with Somali pirates:
Somali troops in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland exchanged fire on Wednesday with pirates who have hijacked a Russian ship and its crew off the Horn of Africa, an official said.

"This morning the pirates opened fire at our troops as they were trying to use force to release the ship," said Puntland's minister for petrol and mineral resources, Hassan Osman Mohamed.

The fighting broke out as troops on land fired at pirates docked nearby as they waited to have supplies of food and weapons taken to them by accomplices in smaller boats, he said.

The pirates, who call themselves "eco-warriors", took hostage four Russian crew members, an Irish chief engineer and a British captain when they seized the 34.5 metre (113 ft) Svitzer Korsakov on its maiden voyage 10 days ago.

"We understand that our troops and the pirates exchanged gun fire killing one civilian in the nearby village and wounding one of our troops," he told Reuters by telephone.

He said the pirates has used long-range arms, striking a few houses in a nearby fishing village.
Another allegation is that "U.S. missiles" hit a village, but these are first reports and so on:
A local source in Eyl said the missiles were aimed at small boats approaching the Svitzer, with another source suggesting that the boats were "aiding the hijackers" by bringing them materials.

Puntland Energy Minister Hassan "Alore" Osman, who is in Eyl, confirmed to reporters today that he personally visited the location where the missiles hit and there was no damage to report.

But he said the Puntland government was "clueless" regarding the objective of the U.S. warship that fired into parts of Eyl town.

He said Puntland security forces were conducting operations inside Eyl to cut off the supply link between hijackers on board the Russian vessel and their partners on land.

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