Somali gunmen storm and loot UN relief ship

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The Independent Online
MOGADISHU - Marauding Somali fighters stripped a United Nations relief ship of fuel oil and stole 200 tons of food aid destined for the starving east African country, a senior UN source in Nairobi said yesterday.

He said fighters from one of Somalia's numerous warring clans drove heavily armed jeeps into the port at the southern town of Kismayu and forced their way on to the Danish ship Sea Pearl, which was unloading UN grain. The ship was carrying 3,000 tons of sorghum from the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), destined to ease famine in the heavily populated south of the country, and fuel for trucks to transport it.

Gunmen and looters blocked food convoys to thousands of dying people yesterday as Somalia awaited the arrival of armed UN guards. Trucks from the north of Mogadishu were ambushed crossing the capital's 'Green Line' divide between the forces of the self-styled president, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, and those of General Mohamed Farah Aideed, preventing the UN's WFP from moving any food out of the port.

UN sources said three people were killed in battles between gangs over the food shipments reaching Mogadishu. The looting came as international efforts to save Somalia's population gathered momentum: a second UN aircraft carrying 17 tons of food arrived in Baidoa yesterday and it was announced that a US military team was on its way to Mombasa, Kenya, to set up other supply routes.

A US embassy spokesman in Nairobi said airlifts could start as early as 24 August following a White House announcement on Friday that Washington would send 145,000 tons of extra food.

In London, the minister for overseas development, Lady Chalker, announced yesterday that Britain would send an additional pounds 18m of aid to Somalia. This emergency aid will add to the pounds 23m already earmarked by the Government following an earlier appeal for assistance to the east African nation.

Two ships were unloading wheat, beans and rice in Mogadishu. But relief workers were unable to say when the food might reach the people who need it. An estimated 4.5 million people are in danger of starving in Somalia, which collapsed into anarchy after the overthrow of Mohamed Siad Barre in January 1991.

Aid workers say the UN's priority must be to take control of Mogadishu port and ensure food reaches the starving. Brigadier-General Imtiaz Shaheen, who heads a team of 50 UN ceasefire monitors, said he was working on final preparations for the arrival of 500 armed UN security guards. He was unable to give a date for the guards' arrival.

NAIROBI - More than 1,500 Somali refugees rounded up by Kenyan police spent the night in an open field near Nairobi with no food or shelter, according to UN officials who were present. Kenyan police said they had arrested the Somalis because they had entered the country without registering as refugees.

(Photograph omitted)

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