HARGEISA, 1 February 2010 (Somalilandpress) – A hijacked Cambodian cargo ship is being held off Somalia’s Berbera port by businessmen owing to a deal which has gone sour and not pirate attack, a regional maritime official confirmed on Saturday.
Andrew Mwangura, East Africa’s Coordinator of Seafarers Assistance Program (SAP), said the MV Layla-S which was seized on Wednesday after it unloaded at the port in the semi-autonomous region of Somaliland has 14 crew members on board from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Somalia and Syria.
“The ill-fated Cambodian flagged cargo ship MV LAYLA-S is being held hostage in port Berbera by Somali businessmen owing to a deal which has gone sour,” Mwangura said by telephone from Mombasa, east Kenya.
“It is said that the vessel has link with Syrian and UAE business men. We are informed that she was taken by gunmen after discharging her cargo,” he said.
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Piracy has become rampant off the coast of Africa, especially in the waters near Somalia, which has been without an effective government since 1991.
Ransoms started out in the tens of thousands of dollars and have since climbed into the millions.
The Horn of Africa nation is at the entrance to the Gulf of Aden, which leads to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most important shipping channels.
The country has been plagued by factional fighting between warlords and hasn’t had a functioning central administration since the 1991 ouster of former dictator Mohammed Siad Barre.
The Gulf of Aden, off the northern coast of Somalia, has the highest risk of piracy in the world. About 25,000 ships use the channel south of Yemen, between the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea.