NATO ships to escort food convoys for Somalia
NATO ships have arrived off the Somali coast to begin escorting relief convoys for Somalia, which has lost critical food supplies from the World Food Programme (WFP) to pirates in the past year, the UN said Wednesday, dpa reported. WFP, backed by the Somali government, requested military vessel escorts to thwart future hijacking of cargo ships carrying food and medicine supplies for Somalia. The UN Security Council earlier this month authorized use of force by UN members to fight the wave of piracy and armed robbery endangering cargo ships as well as luxury cruise ships plying the waters off Somalia. The Netherlands announced Wednesday it will deploy the HMS De Ruyter naval ship at the request of Somalia's transitional government. The Dutch government has decided to provide escort to replace Canada, which was to withdraw its own vessels on Thursday. WFP said NATO vessels have arrived in the area, but have not yet begun escorting duties. Talks were being held to agree on terms of collaboration from the two sides, WFP said. It said it will start delivering emergency supplies of highly nutritional peanut-based food in the next six months to 64,000 Somali children suffering malnutrition. Somali officials said in Mogadishu on Wednesday that security forces in the semi-autonomous Puntland region freed a hijacked Indian ship after a gun battle, capturing four pirates in the process. "Our forces successfully concluded an operation to free the Indian dhow without any casualties," Ali Abdi Aware, state-minister for the northern breakaway region of Puntland, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa. The ship and its crew were due to arrive in the port of Bosasso Wednesday morning, Aware said. The Indian vessel was the 30th ship seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia this year, as gunmen look to cash in on increasingly large ransoms Another ship, Ukraine's MV Faina and its cargo of 33 T-72 tanks and other military equipment bound for Kenya, is still being held by pirates.