Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Somalia, Neighbouring Seychelles Clash Over Pirates

MOGADISHU, Somalia 7 September 2009 Sapa-AP


A dispute erupted between authorities in Somalia and the
Seychelles after the island nation released 23 suspected Somali
pirates in what appeared to be a trade for hostages from the

Authorities in the Seychelles on Monday denied that they had
agreed to swap the captured pirates for the three freed hostages.

Somali officials nonetheless stopped the former hostages from
returning to the Seychelles Monday, saying Somalia had been
deceived by Seychelles authorities.

The 23 prisoners had been captured by international warships and
held on piracy charges in the Seychelles, which sits southeast of
Somalia's coastline.

The Seychelles government said it was releasing the 23 suspects
because it lacked evidence needed to prosecute them.

Ahmed Elmi Karash, the aviation minister in Somalia's
semiautonomous northern region of Puntland, said the 23 suspects
disembarked from two planes late Sunday and the three former
hostages boarded. The planes were detained by Somali officials
while refueling. The planes' seven crew members also were held.

The governor of Somalia's Mudug region, Ahmed Ali Salad, said
the planes' crews misinformed Somali authorities, claiming they
were carrying humanitarian supplies.

The Seychelles authorities said the simultaneous repatriation of
their three citizens - held hostage since their yacht Serenity was
seized in February - was simply a cost-effective way to use the
planes and did not imply a swap. The hostages' yacht sank in poor
weather after their capture.

"The release of the Seychellois hostages is not related to the
repatriation of the 23 Somali men this weekend," said Minister Joel
Morgan, who leads Seychelles government efforts on piracy. "An
exchange of Seychellois and Somalis did not take place."

He added that no ransom was paid.

It is almost unheard-of for pirates to release sailors without a
cash payment.

Morgan said the two governments were in contact and the
situation would soon be resolved.

Pirates captured more than 100 ships last year and attacks off
Somalia are expected to increase dramatically in coming months as
the monsoon season ends.

Warships from Japan, America, Germany, Portugal and other
nations are patrolling the water off Somalia to combat piracy. When
the warships capture suspected pirates, the prisoners are often
delivered to nearby Kenya or the Seychelles for trial.

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