Somalia asks for global help to fight piracy

NAIROBI, May 24, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- The transitional government of Somalia on Thursday called on the international community to help it fight piracy off its coast which is seen as one of the world's most dangerous waters.

Addressing a news conference in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, Somali Ambassador to Kenya Ali Mohammed Nur said the international community should help the transitional government safeguard the Horn of African nation's waters which have seen several pirate attacks off the coast since early this year.

"We are appealing to the international community to help the Somali government safeguard its waters," Nur told journalists in Nairobi.

He said the government was very concerned about high incidences of piracy at the coast where two South Korean and one Taiwanese fishing vessels were hijacked by pirates last week.

"The government is working with elders for the safe and unconditional release of the vessels," said Nur.

Hijackings and piracy have surged since last month as armed groups take advantage of a lack of law and order in the country, which has been without an effective central government since 1991.

The attacks have halted food aid deliveries to Somalia by sea, after an attempt by pirates to seize a ship chartered by the UN food relief agency.

On Sunday, the head of the World Food Program (WFP) said their program to feed one million Somalis is under threat.

The WFP-chartered vessel was attacked on Saturday off the Somali port of Merka after it had just delivered 4,000 tons of food.

Following the attacks, agents for a ship loaded with food in Mombasa in Kenya have refused to allow the vessel to set sail for Somalia until they are given an armed escort.

"We are not taking any risks after being victims four times. We planned to go to Somali this week but following Saturday's incident our ship will not sail," said Karim Kudrat who owns MV Rozen hijacked in Somalia.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Nur said relative calmness has returned to the capital Mogadishu as evidenced by high-profile visits by diplomats from the United Nations, the African Union and Italy this month.

He said the transitional government has embarked on a social mobilization program in which the public and the business sector are jointly cleaning up the city of Mogadishu, a move which he said has created an environment for increased business.