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Suspects in Ship Hijacking Arrested in Somalia


Four men were arrested in Somalia Tuesday in connection with the Sunday hijacking of a ship delivering relief food to Somalia. But as Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi, four additional hijackers are still holding the 12-member crew and ship.

World Food Program (WFP) spokeswoman Stephanie Savariaud describes to VOA the arrests, which were made by authorities in the semi-autonomous Puntland region.

"Basically these men were going to shore to go to the town of Bargal to get some food and other items and four of them were arrested by the police," she said.

But, she says, the ship and her 12-member crew are not out of danger yet.

"Apparently, there would still be on board of the boat four pirates at the moment," she added. "What we also heard during the day is that the ship has been reported to [be] sailing southwards again now."

Gunmen seized the MV Rozen in the waters off the northern coast of Somalia Sunday shortly after the ship unloaded 1,800 tons of food aid at two ports.

The Kenyan-owned ship, contracted by the World Food Program to deliver food aid, was sailing back to Kenya when the incident occurred.

The pirates then anchored the MV Rozen in the waters near the town of Bargal up until the arrests.

The World Food Program would not say whether or not the agency has heard from the ship's crew. Media reports indicate that Puntland authorities are negotiating with the hijackers.

In an interview Monday, the Motaku Shipping Company's manager Karim Kudrati told VOA that his company is the only one willing to go to Somali because of the piracy problem.

Kudrati said that, despite the fact that this is the fourth hijacking of his company's ships off the coast of Somalia in two years, the company is still committed to delivering food aid to the volatile country.

The London-based International Maritime Bureau said in a January report that it feared a rise in piracy incidents with the departure of the Islamic Courts Union, which had control over the capital Mogadishu and much of the south for the second half of last year before being ousted by the Somali transitional government backed by Ethiopian troops.

In an interview last month, the director of the International Maritime Bureau told VOA that piracy had been virtually wiped out under the Islamic Courts Union, but will likely now re-surface.

Piracy has been a big problem in Somali waters, with warlords and their militias using piracy as a source of income.

By the end of November 2005, there had been at least 28 piracy incidents occurring in the waters off the coast of Somalia, which are considered to be among the most dangerous in the world.

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