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Sep-08-2009 01:40printcomments

Efforts Underway to Free Two Pirate-Held Planes in Somalia

"Puntland 'seizes Kenya-bound planes that transported pirate suspects'" - garoweonline

Seized plane in Puntland

(PUNTLAND, Somalia) - Authorities in Somalia's Puntland State government have seized two Kenya-bound airplanes that allegedly transported pirate suspects to Puntland without the local government's knowledge, government sources tell Garowe Online.

The two airplanes were seized by Puntland security forces on Sunday after landing at the airport in Galkayo, the provincial capital of Mudug region. Dr. Abdirahman Mohamed "Farole," the president of Puntland, and most of Puntland's government officials are currently in Galkayo.

Puntland Aviation Minister Ahmed Elmi "Karash" confirmed to independent Somali news agency Garowe Online that the two small airplanes originally landed in Puntland's coastal town of Gara'ad, where 23 pirate suspects reportedly got off.

A group of fishermen from the Seychelles Islands – who were being held hostage by Gara'ad-based pirates – then boarded the plane, Minister Karash said.

The two small planes took off from the dirt airstrip in Gara'ad but landed at the Galkayo airport to refuel, with plans to return to their final destination in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

"The pilots informed our [Puntland] Ministry of Aviation that they were transporting humanitarian supplies when they entered Puntland air space," Minister Karash added. Puntland security sources tell Garowe Online that the 23 pirate suspects were "exchanged" for the Seychelles hostages.

The two airplanes are parked at Galkayo's airport and all the crewmen and passengers have been unboarded as Puntland authorities continue their investigation.

French news agency AFP has reported that Seychelles authorities have repatriated 23 pirate suspects captured off Somalia's long coastline, but AFP could not ascertain where the pirate suspects were taken.

It is not clear what step Puntland's government will take next, but Kenya and Seychelles are two countries that have actively participated in the campaign against Somali pirates. There are many convicted pirates from Somalia currently in Kenyan jails.

Puntland's new government, elected last January with Dr. Farole as president, has waged an active campaign to arrest and sentence pirates in the region, while delivering anti-piracy messages to the public through mass media and Islamic centers.

The governments of Kenya and Seychelles have not spoken about this latest development and the extent of their involvement in this story remains unclear.

Source: Ecoterra, the Global Society for ECOlogy and sound ECOnomy, an independent, international civil society organisation, registered as non-governmental organisation, working as humanitarian agency as well as in development, if it is respecting traditional values of tribal peoples, their right to self-determination and works for better sustainability.

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