Somali standoff as pirates face Coalition naval forces

Dec 11, 2007
Author: P&S

A standoff continues near the port of Bossaso in Puntland in northern Somalia after a coalition of Puntland forces and US and German warships have set up a blockade of the pirate-held Japanese chemical tanker GOLDEN NORI.

The pirates, reported to number 60 heavily armed men, are held up on board the tanker near Bossaso after they captured it on 28 October. At the time an American warship opened fire on the skiffs attacking the ship but then ceased fire on learning of the volatile nature of the ship’s cargo of benzene.

With the pirates in control the tanker was able to make its way towards the Puntland coast where coalition naval forces subsequently set up the blockade. But in a unusual twist the pirates now claim the highjacking of the ship was in response to the murder of two of their men and the destruction of a fishing vessel owned by the Somalis (presumably by the American warship).

They have demanded ‘payment’ for the loss of the boat and the men killed which they say the owners of Golden Nori have agreed to make, after which they would release the hostages on board the ship – Filipinos and South East Asians.

Puntland administrators however have dismissed the claims saying the men holding the ship are pirates and that the ship will be taken by military force unless they surrender. But a Kenyan spokesman for the Seafarers’ Association says the presence of coalition naval ships is complicating the issue of securing the release of the crew and ship. The escape of a Korean seaman from the ship has added to the complications, he added.

Yesterday (Monday) the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a statement saying the pirates were demanding a ransom of one million dollars for the release of the ship and crew.

Puntland is a semi autonomous state on the northeast of Somalia, straddling the Horn of Africa.



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