Somali forces clash with pirates, free Indian ship crew – officials

  • As Fire guts FAAN’s headquarters in Lagos

Somali security forces clashed with a pirate gang early on Wednesday and freed nine seamen kidnapped on an Indian cargo, officials said.

The pirates seized the dhow Al Kausar off Somalia’s coast on April 1, part of a surge of attacks after years without a reported incident.

The kidnappers took the crew onshore in central Galmudug state on Monday and clashed with troops two days later, the territory’s minister for ports and sea transport, Burhan Warsame, said.

“We rescued the nine crew and they are healthy and safe,” he added.

Somali pirate attacks peaked with 237 in 2012 but then declined steeply after ship owners improved security measures and international naval forces stepped up patrols.

But this month has seen a new rash of attacks, with two ships captured and a third rescued by Indian and Chinese forces after the crew radioed for help and locked themselves in a safe room.

The Al Kausar pirates had said they were trying to force authorities to free some of their comrades imprisoned in India.

NAN reports that the forces also enlisted the parents of the other three pirates to persuade them to give up.

Regional security forces rescued the Indian cargo dhow Al Kausar on Monday but pirates who seized it earlier this month escaped beforehand with nine crew members as bargaining chips to try to force the release of pirates jailed in India.

Barre said 10 of the pirates surrendered after they were surrounded, leaving just three holding the nine dhow crew.

He said apart from denying the pirates food and water, security forces had brought the parents of the three pirates to the scene to persuade their sons to give up.

“The remaining three pirates will be taken out by their parents in the coming hours. We shall rescue the nine crew soon and they will rejoin their two colleagues on the ship,” he said.

Two of the dhow crew were rescued on Monday after being left in a car that the pirates had to abandon after a chase.

The hijacking of the Al Kausar was part of a sudden string of attacks by Somali pirates after years without a reported incident.

Attacks peaked with 237 in 2012 but then declined steeply after ship owners improved security measures and international naval forces stepped up patrols.

In the meantime, fire yesterday gutted the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) headquarters at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.

The fire affected the Audit, Communications and Engineering Departments, among others.
FAAN fire service officials said the incident, which occurred around 7 a.m., was caused by an electrical fault.

Files and other equipment belonging to the authority were destroyed in the inferno.
Lagos Commissioner of Police Fatai Owoseni and some of his top officers rushed to the scene to maintain law and order.

The incident led to gridlock on the airport road.
Fire fighters from FAAN and the Lagos State Fire Service battled to put out the fire.
The government is auditing FAAN workers.

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) operatives were said to have visited the agency on Monday.

The audit department was at the centre of a scandal last year in which an official was arrested for manipulating furniture allowances between 2013 and 2015.

Owoseni, who got to the scene at 10:55 a.m., said the immediate cause of the fire could not yet be ascertained, adding that investigations into the incident have been begun.

“The fire service responded to the distress call and ensured that the fire was prevented from spreading,” Owoseni said. “Some of the offices were affected and the FAAN management is already making arrangements to relocate some of the departments to other areas not affected by the fire.

“The police are there to prevent casualty and mutiny. The police in conjunction with FAAN’s security have taken control of security. We are still on the cause of the fire, it is still fresh, but the reasons behind the fire will soon be out with reports from several agencies.”

The Commissioner of Police, Airports Command, Besan Gwana, said his men on patrol spotted smoke coming out from the rooftop of the building and immediately called the Lagos State Fire Service.

Also at the scene were Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Director-General Captain Muhtar Usman and the Director of Consumer Protection Directorate, Adamu Abdullahi.

FAAN has set up a panel to ascertain the cause of the fire at its corporate headquarters.
The panel consisting NCAA, Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Department of State Services (DSS), Police, and personnel of FAAN’s legal, safety and aviation security departments is to unravel the immediate and remote cause of the fire and the extent of damage.

FAAN’s Managing Director Saleh Dunoma said the police also carry out an undercover probe into the cause of the inferno to establish theories of conspiracy and possible sabotage.

He said it was premature to give the cause of the fire as it could jeopardise investigations.
Dunoma said the affected sections in the Director of Commercial Services office, audit and corporate communications departments had been cordoned off to avoid tampering with evidence.

He said workers using offices in the affected sections would be relocated to other sections in the building.

The fire Dunoma said, would not lead to shutting down the headquarters.

NAN with additional report from Nation