Somalia pirates hold 130 hostages after hijacking nine ships

More than 130 crew members of at least nine ships are being held hostage by pirates off the coast of Puntland, in north-eastern Somalia. A number of the hostages are reported to have been injured during gun battles as the ships were seized and have not had access to medical care.

According to the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, there is not enough food and water for the large number of people who have been captured.

Amnesty International has urged its members to appeal to the authorities in that region to ensure the safe release of these people. It is also calling on the authorities to use their influence to ensure that the hostages have the adequate food, water and medical attention while being held.

On 29 August, Somali pirates hijacked a Malaysian tanker with 36 Malaysian and five Filipino crew on board.

During the hijacking, one member of the ship’s staff is believed to have been killed, and an unknown number of others wounded.

On 3 September, pirates boarded one French and one Egyptian vessel. This followed the earlier hijacking of four ships registered as Malaysian, Iranian, Nigerian and Thai, and two registered as Panamanian.

The Somali pirates who are holding these people in captivity have demanded millions of US dollars in ransom.

Pirates from Somalia have hijacked at least 30 ships in the Puntland region of Somalia so far this year.

In June 2008, the UN Security Council voted to allow international navies to enter Somali waters to combat the problem, with the consent of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia. Canadian navy vessels are currently providing security escorts to UN World Food Programme vessels bringing aid to the country.

Director of Amnesty International UK, Kate Allen said:

“Despite recent international intervention, piracy and kidnapping remains a very serious concern in this region of Somalia.

“Authorities in Puntland need to make a more concerted effort to help put an end to this piracy.”

The Puntland Government has faced repeated allegations that senior government and security officials have supported the pirates and shared in ransom payments.

On 4 September, the Puntland Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Ahmed Saed Nur, admitted that some of the Puntland police are involved in piracy “because they can make a hell of a lot of money."

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