Government officials in Somalia’s northeastern state of Puntland have visited a coastal town, where Somali pirates are holding 10 foreign vessels for ransom, Radio Garowe reported Thursday.
Hassan "Allore" Osman, Puntland’s minerals minister, led a government delegation to Eyl that included deputy police commissioner Mohamed Haji Aden to open talks with pirates, who are demanding US$9 million ransom payment to free the vessels, according to Reuters.
Eyl Deputy Mayor Ali "Irro" Farah, who spoke with Radio Garowe, said the Puntland government officials "plan to meet" with the pirates in order to avoid a violent confrontation.
He dismissed rumors that Minister Allore has already met with the pirates, but confirmed that a committee had been established to hold direct talks with the pirates regarding the release of the ships.
On Thursday, pirates reportedly hijacked an Egyptian ship. Locals in Eyl say they are unable to defend their town from the heavily-armed pirates, while the Puntland administration is accused of having links to piracy.