Somali local rulers seek compensation over French raid
The rulers said three civilians were killed during the military operation against the pirates last week.18 April 2008
MOGADISHU - Somali regional rulers on Thursday demanded compensation for civilian deaths they claim occurred during a French military operation against suspected pirates last week.
They said three herdsmen were killed during the operation that followed the release for ransom of a 30-strong luxury yacht crew and insisted that four of the suspects captured by French troops were not pirates.
"We are not complaining about the operation against the pirates, but we are talking about civilian casualties. Three herdsmen died in the area during the raid," said Abdiaziz Yusuf Harin, Puntland's Jariban district commissioner.
Harin also demanded compensation for a vehicle that was destroyed during the raid, saying that it did not belong to the pirates. The official did not specify the amount of the compensation being sought.
Officials from Somalia's semi-autonomous northern region of Puntland said that only two of the six suspects captured were pirates.
"They arrested six people whom we heard are awaiting trial, but we can confirm that four of them are innocent. They were not involved in piracy," Harin said.
"There are two people confirmed to be pirates among the six. The other four were khat (mild narcotic leaves) traders selling their goods to the pirates," when they were snatched, said Dahir Abdulkadir Ahmed, the governor of the Mugug region where the operation was carried out.
"We call on the French government to release the innocents and charge the two pirates," he added.
French authorities have said they hope to put the six suspects on trial on charges of "organised criminality" for hijacking the yacht and taking hostages with the intention of securing a ransom. The men face life in prison.
But the possibility of them being tried in France is expected to cause a "number of problems," a source close to the case told AFP.
The yacht was boarded in international waters, taken to Somalia's territorial waters and the kidnappers later captured on Somali soil.
[AFP / Expatica]