Pirated WFP boats found in Somalia

Published on Wednesday 26th March 2008

Mogadishu (Somalia), March 26: The World Food Programme has recovered two boats that were stolen from the southern Somali port town of Merca, but without their engines, an official said on Monday.

The two fibreglass boats, stolen at midnight on Sunday, were found near the port, said WFP spokesman Peter Smerdon, AFP report said.

"The two boats have been recovered about one kilometre from Merca town, but without their engines. We have launched an investigation and are attempting to recover the engines," Smerdon told AFP in Nairobi.

Smerdon said it was unclear whether the boats had been stolen by ordinary criminals or pirates.

A WFP official said the boats were used to train staff members for emergency operations.

"None of our staff members was there at the time so they took the boats alone," from Merca, about 100 kilometres south of the lawless capital Mogadishu, Smerdon added.

WFP-chartered vessels have in the past been targeted by pirates operating in Somali waters ostensibly to demand ransom.

Numerous attacks have taken place off Somalia?s 3,700-kilometre coastline, prompting the International Maritime Bureau to advise sailors to steer clear.

Somalia lies at the mouth of the Red Sea on a major trade route between Asia and Europe via the Suez Canal. It has not had a functional government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.