Somalia

Somali hijackers say releasing some from WFP ship

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NAIROBI, July 25 (Reuters) - A leader of Somali militia who hijacked a vessel chartered by the U.N. World Food Programme nearly a month ago said on Monday they would release eight Kenyan crew members after talks with an envoy from Nairobi.

"We have decided to release the eight Kenyans following talks with Kenyan ambassador to Somalia Mohamed Abdi Affey," Mohamed Abdi Hassan told Reuters by phone from an undisclosed location on the Somalia mainland.

Hassan, whose identity has been confirmed to Reuters by a minister in Somalia's new government, said he was speaking from a place about 190 miles (300 km) from where his men were holding the MV Semlov at anchor.

WFP officials in Nairobi could not confirm his assertion.

The ship was captured in late June carrying 850 tonnes of rice for Somali tsunami survivors. Its owner had said the gunmen were demanding $500,000 to free the 10-man crew, who also included a Sri Lankan captain and a Tanzanian engineer.

The Kenyan ambassador had been due to arrive in Mogadishu on Sunday to push for the release of his citizens, but his visit could not be confirmed. He could not be immediately reached for comment.

Hassan did not specify when the Kenyans would be released, but said that when they go "we will need the presence of the engineer and the captain since we still have the ship."

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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