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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Kenyan maritime spokesman, Andrew Mwangura, arrested over alleged connection with Somali pirates of Al-Shabaab.

Kenyan maritime spokesman, Andrew Mwangura, arrested over alleged connection with Somali pirates of Al-Shabaab. Kenyan police detain maritime official over piracy saga.

APA-Nairobi (Kenya) The spokesman of the Kenya Seafarers Assistance programme, Andrew Mwangura, who broke the news about the Ukrainian ship hijacked by Somali pirates believed to be carrying military equipments, has been arrested by Kenya police on suspicion of having links with the buccaneers that are demanding a ransom of US$30 million for the release of the ship.

Local media reports confirmed on Thursday that the police arrested Mwangura on Wednesday night for allegedly issuing alarmist statements to the media over the hijacked ship, and the police are of the believe that he has connections with the pirates. A report issuedThursday by Roger Middleton for Chatham House said the millions being earned by pirates in ransom were already being used to pay for the war between the shaky Somali government and Islamic insurgents (Al-Shabaab), some of whom are on a U.S. State Department list of terrorists (Al-Shabaab). "The international community must be aware of the danger that Somali pirates could become agents of international terrorist networks (Al-Qaeda)," Middleton warned, but admitted there was no explicit evidence yet showing that ransoms had bought weapons outside Somalia.

Andrew Mwangura, who runs the Kenya chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Programme, was held at a police station in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa.

"We have been looking for him since yesterday, but we have finally have him. He has been too vocal on the media, we want him to share with us what he knows of these pirates," a police official told AFP.

"We just want to question him on a few issues. It appears he knows more on the ship. We want him to tell us about this southern Sudan controversy about the arms," added another official. Police said Mwangura was likely to be charged with making an alarming statement, a crime under the country's criminal procedure code.

"All I can tell you is that he is being investigated for issuing alarming statements. Those are the charges he is likely to face," said another official attached to the Criminal Investigations Department. Earlier this week, Mwangura said Kenyan authorities had gagged him for speaking to the media on the piracy saga.

For several years, the Mombasa-based Mwangura has been a vocal advocate for seafarers rights, revealing the fate of hijacked vessels, the state of the hostages and ransoms, if any is paid. Mwangura said 33 Soviet-type T-72 tanks as well as other military supplies aboard the Belize-flagged MV Faina, seized last week of the Somali coastline, had been headed to South Sudan and not Kenya.

Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet's spokesman later repeated the allegations, which have been rejected by Kenya, Sudan and Ukraine.The pirates have demanded 20 million dollars to release the ship, its cargo and 21 Ukrainians, Russians and Latvians in the crew - down from their initial demand of $35 million. The U.S. military has launched air strikes in Somalia and is known to have secretly sent special forces into Somalia to go after militants linked to Al Qaeda (Al-Shabaab).

Since the vessel was seized, the ship's captain had died of an illness, according to Russian media. Currently the U.S. warships and helicopters as well as other foreign vessels have blockaded the hijacked cargo ship, which is now docked at the Somali port village of Hobyo.
Bill Warner
Private Investigator