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Somalia: Puntland hands over 8 former pirate hostages to Yemen government

BOSSASO, Somalia Dec. 28, 2012 (Garowe Online) – Authorities in Somalia's northern autonomous state of Puntland have officially handed over eight former Yemeni hostages rescued by Puntland government forces on Dec. 23, following a raid on the MV Iceberg 1 hijacked vessel that resulted in the rescue of 22 multi-national hostages, Garowe Online reports.

Puntland President Abdirahman Farole and Yemeni Amb. to Somalia Ahmed Omar
Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, flanked by a number of Puntland ministers and senior military officials, received a diplomatic delegation on Friday in the Puntland port city of Bossaso. The delegation, led by Yemeni Ambassador to Somalia Ahmed Omar, came to Bossaso to attend the official handover ceremony of the eight former hostages of MV Iceberg 1 from Yemen.

Puntland government officials, religious clergy, traditional leaders, and commanders of Puntland security forces attended the event held at Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) compound in the western outskirts of Bossaso.

PMPF officers presented the 14-day events of the MV Iceberg 1 operation to the visiting dignitaries, with officers lauding the operation strategy designed by the PMPF commanders and the comprehensive intelligence gathered prior to the launching of the successful multi-terrain operation.

Ambassador Ahmed Omar expressed gratitude to the government and the people of Puntland. He thanked the government for saving the crew members from the hostage situation that lasted for over 33 months.

"I hope the Puntland government succeeds in bringing the perpetrators of this crime to justice," said Ambassador Ahmed. "The government of Yemen has maintained good relations with Somalia especially the Puntland government for a longtime. This gesture will enhance our friendship."

The Yemeni delegation and the 8 former hostages flew home to Yemen from Bosaso airport later Friday.

Yemen is located across the Gulf of Aden waterway from Puntland, in northern Somalia. In July and October of 2012, Puntland government forces intercepted a weapons and explosives shipment from Yemen intended for Al Shabaab group in Somalia.

The MV Iceberg 1 was hijacked on March 29, 2010. The freed hostages include eight Yemenis, five Indians, four Ghanaians, two Pakistanis, two Sudanese, and one Filipino.

Also on Friday, Puntland authorities officially handed over five former hostages from India to Indian government officials who came to Bossaso.

Puntland has been stable and self-governing since 1998.

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