US Navy says 13 die in rescue of boat off Somalia

A US Navy warship was providing humanitarian supplies to passengers aboard a broken-down boat off the coast of Somalia when the boat suddenly capsized, killing at least 13 passengers.

Last Updated: Sep 28, 2010, 10:47 AM IST

Washington: A US Navy warship was providing
humanitarian supplies to passengers aboard a broken-down boat
off the coast of Somalia when the boat suddenly capsized,
killing at least 13 passengers.

Another eight passengers were still missing, Navy
officials said yesterday.
The failed rescue was the latest incident involving US
military personnel in Somali waters, where deteriorating
security conditions have encouraged piracy and produced a
flood of refugees trying to flee to Yemen. Most cross the Gulf
of Aden in rickety and overcrowded vessels run by smugglers.

According to the Navy, a skiff with 10 Somalis and 75
Ethiopians on board had departed Somalia and was headed north
when its engine broke down in the Gulf of Aden. It was spotted
Sunday by a Korean vessel, which alerted international
authorities.

The USS Winston S Churchill, a Navy warship on patrol as
part of a multinational anti-piracy task force, responded by
sending food and water to the stranded passengers. The Navy
crew tried unsuccessfully to restart the boat`s engine, then
began towing it back to the Somali coast using a rigid-hulled
inflatable boat.
Navy personnel said they were transferring humanitarian
supplies to the skiff last morning when the passengers rushed
to one side and the boat overturned, throwing all 85
passengers overboard.

The Navy was expected to review the incident to determine
whether proper procedures were followed.

Details of the account were provided by the Navy`s Fifth
Fleet, which is based in Bahrain. Spokesman Lt. John Fage said
he could not confirm that the skiff`s passengers were refugees
or where they were headed, other than north from Somalia.

Fage said the surviving passengers were being cared for
aboard the Churchill ship.

According to the United Nations, an estimated 74,000
Africans, mainly from Ethiopia and Somalia fled to Yemen as
refugees in 2009.

The region also is known as a haven for pirates. Earlier
this month, Marine commandos stormed a pirate-held cargo ship
off the Somalia coast, taking nine prisoners without firing a
shot. It was the first time the international task force has
launched a boarding raid.

PTI