MOGADISHU (Somalilandpress) — Somali pirates in Puntland seized food aid trucks and their drivers to obtain the release of detained comrades, officials said Friday, in a rare land attack by the sea bandits.
The five trucks had been contracted by the UN’s World Food Programme and had finished delivering food aid in the Galkayo area, in the semi-autonomous northern Somali state of Puntland, which harbours several major pirate lairs.
They were on their way back to Berbera, the main port in the neighbouring breakaway state of Somaliland, when a gang of pirates intercepted them on Thursday.
“The pirates hijacked five trucks with nine people onboard and took them to their base in Garaad. They are demanding the release of their colleagues arrested recently by the Somaliland security forces,” Abdullahi Mohamed, a security official in Galkayo, said by phone.
“We heard pirates took civilians from Somaliland region as hostages and we are still investigating the incident,” police officer Colonel Dahir Jama said.
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The Somaliland authorities have arrested and jailed dozens of pirates from Puntland in the Gulf of Aden recently.
“We are treating the hostages well here in Garaad and our aim is to get our friends in the jails of Somaliland freed. We are not demanding anything else. When our friends are free and back home we will free the drivers and the trucks,” Abdi Jamal, a pirate, said by phone from Garaad.
Dozens of other trucks transporting food aid in the same region are stranded in Galkayo, their drivers afraid to continue.
“There are many trucks from Somaliland still here in Galkayo, too afraid to return, but we will give them escorts,” Jamal said.
Source: AFP, 26th February 2010