CAIRO, Egypt – Armed men hijacked a ship carrying food aid Wednesday as it was unloading at a port in the strife-torn African country of Somalia, said the United Nations food relief agency (search), marking the second such incident in recent months.
The St. Vincent and Grenadines-registered MV Miltzow was stormed by six gunmen who forced the ship's 10-member crew to leave the port of Merka, 60 miles southwest of the capital of Mogadishu (search), the World Food Program said in a statement.
Nearly half the total cargo of 850 tons of WFP food aid was on board at the time of the hijacking.
"It is scandalous that a small number of profiteers would once again hijack humanitarian food supplies destined for fellow Somalis," said WFP Country Director Robert Hauser.
Somali officials were not immediately available for comment.
But WFP said in its statement that the governor of the Lower Shabelle region, Yusuf Indha Adde, had sent two small boats to pursue the vessel. No further details were provided.
On June 27, gunman hijacked the MV Semlow and held the vessel for 100 days before it was released Oct. 4.
The latest ship hijacked was carrying 703 tons of corn, 108 tons of beans and 39 tons of vegetable oil destined for some of Somalia's most vulnerable people in the country's Lower Juba Valley, said Hauser.
The WFP suspended food aid to Somalia (search) on July 4 and refused to pay a ransom demanded by the pirates who seized the MV Semlow, but resumed deliveries in August.
Somalia's 1,880-mile coastline is Africa's longest and the country has had no effective central government since opposition leaders ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. They then turned on each other, transforming this nation of 7 million into a patchwork of battling fiefdoms ruled by heavily armed militias.