August 6, 2005

Somali hijackers to release ship, hostages -WFP

By Andrew Cawthorne

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Somali pirates who have held 10
hostages for more than a month on a ship chartered by the U.N.
World Food Programme to carry food aid have agreed to release
the vessel and free the crew, the WFP said on Saturday.

"An agreement has been reached for the release of the ship,
crew and food in the next three days," WFP spokeswoman Rene
McGuffin told Reuters in Nairobi.

The Somali militiamen hijacked the MV Semlow on June 27 as
it headed for the northern port of Bossaso carrying 850 tonnes
of rice donated by Japan and Germany for post-tsunami relief to
the Horn of Africa nation.
The pirates had initially demanded a $500,000 ransom for the
eight Kenyan crew members, Sri Lankan captain and Tanzanian
engineer. They then reduced that to demand only the rice.

WFP said agreement was reached at a meeting on Friday in
Jowhar -- the seat of the new Somali government -- between
diplomats, local leaders and WFP country director Robert

"We are tremendously grateful to the Somali Transitional
Federal Government and the Kenyan ambassador for their combined
efforts to ensure that the vessel, the food, and most
importantly the ten-member crew who have suffered greatly
during this ordeal will be released unconditionally," Hauser

The WFP statement said the ship would discharge the rice in
El Maan, a port to the north of Somali capital Mogadishu, for
distribution in central regions of Somalia.

It would then return to its base in Mombasa, Kenya.

Kenyan Ambassador Mohamed Abdi Affey confirmed the deal to

"I'm very happy because we worked hard to get our nationals
out. But it is not over until it's over," he said.

The pirates, however, were satisfied with the agreement to
distribute the food in central Somalia, Affey said in Nairobi.

Somalia has been synonymous with insecurity since warlords
overran the country of approximately 10 million in 1991,
carving it into fiefdoms after ousting dictator Mohamed Siad

The International Maritime Bureau classes Somali waters as
some of the world's most dangerous, with frequent hijackings.
(Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis)