Somali forces storm hijacked ship, free crew

Other News Materials 15 October 2008 00:32 (UTC +04:00)

Security forces in the semi-autonomous Puntland region of Somalia have stormed a hijacked Panama-flagged cargo ship and rescued the crew with no fatalities, officials said Tuesday, dpa reported.

The ship, which was carrying cement from Oman to the Somali port Bosasso, was seized last Thursday along with its crew of nine Syrians and two Somalis.

Soldiers seized the ship after the ten pirates ran out of ammunition.

"The ship is now in our hands," Mogadishu-based Radio Garowe quoted Ahmed Said O'Nur, Puntland's minister for fisheries and ports, as saying.

A previous attempt to take the ship on Sunday saw one pirate and one of the security forces killed.

Another ship, Ukraine's MV Faina and its cargo of 33 T-72 tanks and other military equipment, is still being held by pirates, who are demanding a multi-million-dollar ransom.

The pirates, who are hemmed in by international warships, have threatened to blow up the ship if they do not receive the ransom, which was originally set at 20 million dollars.

However, the deadline they set of early Tuesday morning has passed with no incident.

The high-profile case of the tank ship has put the spotlight on the Somali authorities, particularly in Puntland where most of the pirates are based.

Piracy has surged this year, with over 30 ships seized, as gunmen look to cash in on increasingly large ransoms. Security forces now appear to be taking a tougher line.

The UN has authorized the use of force when dealing with pirates and the EU, NATO and other nations have agreed to send frigates to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden.