Monday, October 22, 2007

Somalia update

Idris Osman (WFP photo)

According to the United Nations, negotiations are at a standstill as the World Food Programme (WFP) tries to secure the release of staffer Idris Osman, the Officer-in-Charge for Mogadishu who continues to be held in a jail cell in the Somali capital by forces of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), after being detained lat week by gunmen. UN officials have spoken with Osman via telephone and he claims to be unharmed. Osman's abduction forced the WFP to suspend disbursements of food aid until the situation is resolved and the safety of their personnel can be assured.

Meanwhile, the UN reports that Somali pirates made another attempt to attack a ship working under contract for the WFP, the first incident since the end of the monsoon season off East Africa. On Sunday, the MV Jaikur II was approached by two speedboats while sailing some 60 miles off the coast of Somalia near the port of Brava, which is just south of Mogadishu. The vessel had just unloaded 7,000 tons of food and was returning to Mombasa, Kenya, when the attack occurred. The crew of the freighter managed to escape, but the attack only heightens the need for naval warships to protect the these aid shipments. The UN hopes that the French navy will begin escorting WFP-contracted vessels next month as the venture into Somali waters, which President Nicolas Sarkozy promised in September.

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