SOMALIA: Puntland forces clash with Pirates holding MV Iceberg 1

Ciidamada Saracen

This week, heavily armed Maritime police force trained by Saracen, clashed with pirates holding the ship MV Iceberg 1 near the coastal town of Garacad, in the autonomous region of Puntland State (Northeastern Somalia). The Somali pirates have been holding the hijacked ship for nearly two years. The MV Iceberg 1 is a Panama-flagged cargo ship that was hijacked March 29, 2010.

The first encounter took place on early Monday morning when the Puntland forces clashed with pirates escorting a speedboat carrying supplies and ammunition for pirates holding the ship.

Officials in Puntland say three pirates were killed, but according to residents in Garacad one soldier was also killed in the gun battle. The second clash took place on early Thursday morning, when Puntland forces tired to board the hijacked ship. The attempt to board the ship failed, several Puntland soldiers were wounded and some possibly killed, when the pirates destroyed two small crafts that the forces were using.

One Puntland official said the aim was to seize the boat and arrest pirates, but he said the mission failed after pirates fought back. The official spoke on condition he wasn’t identified because he’s not authorized to speak to the media, reported the Associated Press.

According to sources at the Presidential palace in Puntland, the cargo owner paid up to $1.5 million dollars to the Puntland officials, after the negotiations with Pirates failed. Reports say the cargo owner has requested the Puntland authorities to take the ship by force. Sources have reported that the money has been paid to Mohamed Abdirahman Farole, the President’s son, who is now in charge of the Maritime police forces trained by Saracen International, a South African military firm.

It has transpired that the shipping company Azal Shipping based in Dubai refuses to pay any ransom and the ship is apparently not insured, though it carries very valuable cargo and the cargo owner was until recently in charge of the negotiations.

Since the ship was hijacked about 50 pirates on the ship made any rescue operation impossible without endangering the 24 crew. It is not yet clear if any of the crew on board were harmed during the failed rescue attempt by the Puntland forces. The sailors have no more food, water or medicine on board.

The UAE-owned, Panama-flagged Ro-Ro vessel MV ICEBERG 1 with her 24 multinational crew members ( 9 Yemenis, 6 Indians, 4 from Ghana, 2 Sudanese, 2 Pakistani and 1 Filipino ) was sea-jacked just 10nm outside Aden Port, Gulf of Aden. The vessel was mostly held off Kulub at the North-Eastern Indian Ocean coast of Somalia.

Khalid Yusuf
Horseed Media