July 17, 2008

Stranded South Korean Fishermen Rescued in Waters Off Somalia

Text of report in English by South Korean news agency Yonhap

Washington, July 16 (Yonhap) - Seven South Korean and 33 other fishermen were rescued in waters off Somalia Wednesday under convoy of a US naval ship, three days after their ship was grounded on a Somali sand beach, South Korea's military attache here said.

The stranded fishermen were carried by local boats to another South Korean fishing boat, Baekyang No 37, and were heading to Oman's Salalah Port as of 8:00 p.m. Wednesday (Somali local time), General Kang Dae-young said.

The stranded vessel, Ixthus No 5, was swept onto a sand beach in northeastern Somalia at 5:00 a.m. on Sunday by high waves. The fishermen waited for motor boats to carry them to another South Korean fishing boat operating nearby, Kang said.

Upon request by the South Korean Embassy in Washington on Monday, the US Defence Department ordered the US Navy tanker Big Horn, which was cruising nearby waters at the time, to head to the scene to help the rescue operation. "We made the request as the Somali waters are notorious for piracy," said Kang.

Somalia's waters are among the world's most dangerous, with pirates often demanding hefty ransoms for hostages.

South Korean boats have suffered a series of hijackings along the dangerous Somali coast in recent years. Eight crew members of two Dongwon Fisheries Co. tuna ships were released in 2006 for a ransom of US$800,000 after being held hostage for four months by Somali pirates.

Two fishing boats of South Korea's Daechang Fishing Co. were hijacked in May last year, and their 25 crew members released six months later.

Originally published by Yonhap news agency, Seoul, in English 1535 16 Jul 08.

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