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Sailor refuses to disembark from yacht, shot dead by Somali pirates

by Nancy Knudsen on 8 Nov 2010
Pirates are seen on a speed boat near the enclave of Eyl SW
Reports are emerging from Somalia about the alleged hijacking of another yacht and death of a cruising sailor in the last week.

One report says that a sailor, at first reported to be a South African citizen, was shot dead on Sunday after he refused to disembark from his yacht in the Indian Ocean, while a woman and a boy were taken ashore and are now in the hands of pirates.

Other reports say this occurred during an attempted rescue attempt.

Earlier reports said that the yacht was hijacked between the Seychelles and the Kenyan destination of Lamu.

All reports agree that the sailor was killed in Barawe Town on the southern Somali coastline, meaning that the pirates must have sailed the yacht northward to reach the Somali coast. There were two, possibly three other crew besides the woman and the boy, but the number and nationalities of the other sailors on board is unclear, with conflicting reports of Africans and South Africans of Italian origin.

The South African International Relations and Cooperation Department has now confirmed that a South African man was not killed by Somali pirates. Spokesman for the department, Saul Molobi, said the man killed was not South African.

'We are happy to confirm that the deceased person in a Somali hospital who is alleged to have been killed by Somali pirates is not a South African citizen. We are, however, with our international partners in Somalia, investigating the identity of the other two kidnapped individuals who are thought to be South African citizens,' said Molobi.

Somali pirates normally hijack vessels on the Indian Ocean, take them to the Somali coast and hold them until money is paid, but the killing of hostages is rare.

Andrew Mwangura, the head of a regional maritime group based in Kenya's port city of Mombasa, and whose reports are reliable, has confirmed that the yacht was anchored along Somali's coastline near Barawe.

He said his organisation was investigating reports of a possible hijacking of the sailors, believed to be tourists.

'What I know is there was a yacht spotted by local people in southern Somalia, and we are trying to investigate reports of hostages and to verify their nationality,' Mwangura told Reuters.

An Al Shabaab rebel spokesman who declined to give his name confirmed that the body of the hostage killed was lying in the morgue at the town's hospital.

Al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked rebel group, controls Barawe on the southern coast of the anarchic Horn of Africa nation that has been mired in violence and is awash with weapons since the overthrow of a dictator in 1991.

The hostages' yacht was not anchored but adrift on the coast, residents said. 'He was shot and killed after he refused to disembark from his yacht and move onshore in Baraawe town,' Ali Shuke, a resident in Baraawe town said. 'The man died instantly and the gunmen took the other hostages onshore. The woman and a boy were taken to jungle areas near the town.'

Reports from Ecoterra, a non-government humanitarian organisation working in Africa report that that one of the sailors has escaped and is now aboard a Dutch naval vessel which will be arriving Mombasa this week.

Earlier this week, Mwangura said he also was trying to verify reports that the sailors were British.

The British foreign office has said it had heard of the reports of the hijacking, and was also investigating the incident.
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