UN-chartered ship freed in Somalia after two-day captivity

Pirates in Somalia have freed a UN-chartered ship carrying food aid, two days after hijacking it from the southern port of Merka. The MV Miltzow's owner told the BBC no ransom had been paid and his company was suspending operations to Somalia until security had improved.

Maritime officials say Somali waters are some of the world's most dangerous.

Somalia's transitional prime minister has asked neighbouring countries to send warships to patrol the coast.

Somalia has not had a functioning central government since Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.

The United Nations World Food Programme confirmed the release and said the gunmen had initially demanded a $20,000 (Ј11,000) ransom, Reuters reports.

Karim Kudrati of the Kenya-based Motaku Shipping Agency, which owns the ship, said that the eight-member crew were safe and a Somali businessman had negotiated the release.

The gunmen had taken the vessel to Barawa port from Merka, 100km (60 miles) south-west of the capital, Mogadishu.

A similar cargo ship, the MV Torgelow, was seized earlier this week.

Another UN-chartered ship carrying food aid to tsunami victims in northern Somalia, the MV Semlow, was released last week, after being held by hijackers for 100 days, BBC reports.

The Kenyan government has asked its citizens to avoid sailing to the Somali coastline because of the high incidence of piracy and kidnapping witnessed recently.

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua said Kenya was discussing with the transitional government of Somalia how to deal with these incidents.

Kenya is also investigating whether the gunmen behind the hijackings could be connected with the interim Somali government.


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