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200 dead after DR Congo tanker truck explosion – Red Cross

In Uncategorized on July 3, 2010 at 4:07 pm

KINSHASA, July 3, 2010 (AFP) – At least 200 people died and dozens were injured when a tanker truck filled with oil exploded and set fire to a village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the Red Cross said Saturday.


“So far, the accident has left 200 dead. It is a provisional toll. We have people on the spot and the search (for victims) is continuing,” the Red Cross official in charge of Sud-Kivu province, Leonard Zigade told AFP.

AFP – A map locating the town of Bukavu in eastern DR. Congo.

Earlier local officials said at least 100 people had been killed, while a security source in the United Nations mission in DR Congo (MONUC) gave a toll of “223 dead and 110 injured.”


“What is certain is that the toll will get higher. It seems that what happened was truly horrible,” the source said on condition of anonymity, adding that the search was still going on “for more charred bodies.”


The accident happened late Friday.


“A tanker truck coming from Tanzania overturned in the village of Sange. There was a crush (of people) and a petrol leak, there was an explosion of fuel oil which spread through the village,” regional government spokesman Vincent Kabanga told AFP.


The village is located around 70 kilometres (40 miles) south of the Sud-Kivu county town of Bukavu, close to the border with Burundi.


Dozens of mostly earth and straw constructed homes in Sange were engulfed in the blaze after the accident, which a police officer based in Bukavu said had been caused by the truck’s “excessive speed.”


The officer, who asked not to be named, added that many of those who surrounded the vehicle before it exploded were children.


He said the village was now “in total mourning.”


MONUC has made available three helicopters to evacuate villages and has alerted hospitals at Uvira and Bukavu, a source in the mission told AFP.

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Source: SGGP

Russian forces storm oil tanker, 1 pirate killed

In Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 at 12:38 pm

 A Russian warship hunted down an oil tanker hijacked by Somali pirates and special forces rappelled on board Thursday, surprising the outlaws, who surrendered after a 22-minute gunbattle. Twenty-three Russian sailors were freed.


The dramatic Indian Ocean rescue came a day after pirates seized the tanker, which was heading toward China carrying $50 million worth of crude. One pirate was killed and 10 others were arrested, officials said.


The Russian destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov had rushed to the scene following Wednesday’s seizure of the Liberian-flagged tanker, Moscow University.


After spotting the hijacked vessel early Thursday, the warship fired warning shots from its large-caliber machine gun, undeterred by the tanker’s flammable cargo of 86,000 tons of crude.

In this April 6, 2003 file picture Russian anti-submarine ship Marshal Shaposhnikov of the Pacific Fleet, is ready to leave Vladivostok harbour in the Russian Far East, to head to the Indian Ocean.

Oil tankers don’t even allow crew members to smoke on board because of the risk of igniting the cargo, but the Russian navy decided to move in with weapons after determining the crew had taken refuge in a safe room.


“The Marshal Shaposhnikov came near the tanker and after establishing contact with the crew, who were taking cover in the machine area of the ship, opened warning fire from large-caliber machine guns and a 30mm artillery complex,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.


Special forces troops then rappelled down to the tanker from a helicopter, Rear Adm. Jan Thornqvist, the EU Naval Force commander, told an Associated Press reporter aboard the Swedish warship Carlskrona, which was patrolling 500 miles (800 kilometers) west of the rescue site.


The startled pirates opened fire and a gunbattle ensued that killed one pirate and wounded three before the hijackers surrendered, the Russian state news channel Rossiya-24 said. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Alexei Kuznetsov said a large weapons cache was seized.


The operation’s success was due to the surprise factor, said a Russian military officer aboard the warship. “The pirates were taken by surprise. They did not expect such resolute measures from us,” Capt. Ildar Akhmerov told RUA Novosti news agency.


The decision to free the ship was made knowing “that the crew was under safe cover inaccessible to the pirates” and that sailors’ lives were not in danger, said the ship’s owner, Novoship, which is a subsidiary of a government-owned company, Sovcomflot.


Safe rooms, where crews seek shelter, are typically stocked with food, water and communications equipment and have reinforced doors that can only be opened from the inside. Still, at one point, the crew had reported that they believed the pirates were trying to enter the engine room, Thornqvist said.


The raid shows that some governments are taking a more robust stand against pirate attacks, especially when their citizens are involved, said Graeme Gibbon Brooks of Dryad Maritime Intelligence in Britain.


Rescue attempts are easier when crews are locked away and not among the pirates, he said, though military action on oil tankers can be dangerous.


“As for whether live ammunition and oil tankers mix, really it’s obvious there’s a risk,” Brooks said. “In terms of the decision to conduct the assault, these things are always a balance of risk versus benefit.”


International military forces have been more aggressively combating piracy, which has flourished off the coast of lawless Somalia into a multimillion-dollar industry.


EU Naval Force ships are disrupting pirate groups and destroying their ships at a much higher rate than in previous years. U.S. warships have fired back on pirates and destroyed their boats in several skirmishes in the last several weeks.


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev congratulated the special forces for a job done “correctly, professionally, quickly,” and sailors’ relatives praised the rescue effort.


“It all ended so well that one has a warm feeling of pride for our country,” said Ludmila Kotzenko, a sailor’s mother.

The pirates were to be taken to Moscow to face criminal charges and Medvedev hinted at tough punishment.

“Perhaps we should get back to the idea of establishing an international court and other legal tools” to prosecute pirates, he said. “Until then, we’ll have to do what our forefathers did when they met the pirates.”

Cmdr. John Harbour, a spokesman for the EU Naval Force, called Thursday’s rescue “an excellent operation all around.” He said the EU force had been working at a tactical level with the Russians, and had talked to the Russian crew by VHF radio and offered support.

In February, Danish special forces prevented the hijacking of a ship after pirates boarded it. Special forces from the Danish Absalon boarded the Ariella while the crew locked themselves in a secure room.

Still, pirates are holding more than 300 hostages taken from ships off East Africa in the last several months.

The U.N. office on Drugs and Crime said this week that the island nation of Seychelles would establish a regional center for the prosecution of piracy. The court will accept the transfer of suspects from the EU Naval Force, while a joint EU-U.N. program will help ensure the country’s police, prosecutors, courts and prisons have adequate resources.

Source: SGGP

Russian marines free captured tanker

In Uncategorized on May 6, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Russian marines stormed a hijacked Russian oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden early Thursday, killing one of the Somali pirates aboard and capturing the remaining 10, officials said.


The marines from the warship Marshal Shaposhnikov exchanged fire with the pirates aboard the Moscow University after speeding in small boats to the vessel and scaling its sides in an operation lasting over three hours.


“The tanker was freed last night as a result of a successful armed operation by marines from the Marshal Shaposhnikov,” a spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry told AFP.


The tanker’s operator Novoship said all 23 crew were unharmed. “All crew members are alive and well,” the company said.


Russian investigators said the 10 captured pirates would be brought to Moscow to face charges, adding that some had been wounded in the firefight and one killed.


“The investigation is taking steps to transport the captured pirates to Moscow,” the Investigative Committee of Russia’s Prosecutor General Office said in a statement.


It said the investigation will be conducted in accordance with Russian and international law and they will face “criminal responsibility” for the hijacking.


Somali pirates seized control of the 230-metre (755 foot)-long Moscow University early Wednesday as it sailed out of the Gulf of Aden, setting up a high-seas standoff as the Marshal Shaposhnikov steamed to the rescue with a unit of marines on board.


The tanker had been on its way to China from the Red Sea with 86,000 tonnes of crude oil, believed to be worth around 50 million dollars.


Before storming the tanker, the warship’s crew had used a helicopter to conduct reconnaissance, RIA-Novosti news agency quoted a high level naval source in the region as saying.


“Simultaneously boats with an anti-terror group approached the tanker from the sea and boarded the vessel,” the source said.


“After a short fire-fight the pirates were neutralised.”


The crew had been locked into a cabin as the pirates took control of the vessel, the company said.


The end to the 20-hour hijacking is a major triumph for the Russian navy and comes as the entire Russian military gears up for a massive parade on Sunday to mark the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.


The ship’s operator praised the destroyer and its crew for the operation, saying it had been carried out “in the best traditions of the Russian naval mariners.”


The seizure of the Moscow University was a jolt to the international anti-piracy system put in place along one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.


The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said recently the presence of numerous foreign warships in the Gulf was proving an effective deterrent, with 17 attacks there in the first quarter of 2010, down from 41 a year earlier.


Heavily armed and equipped with GPS navigation and satellite phones, pirates raked in an estimated 60 million dollars in ransoms last year.


As of late April, Somali pirates were holding 23 foreign vessels and 384 sailors awaiting the payment of ransom, according to maritime watchdog Ecoterra.


Mikhail Voitenko, a leading Russian expert on piracy, warned the hijacking of the Moscow University would be far from the last such incident.


“Congratulations to everyone,” he said in his online journal Maritime Bulletin.


“As for the captured pirates, in the grand scheme of things their fate is of no interest. Even if they manage to lock them up, there will be 10 new ones to replace one.”


 

Source: SGGP

EADS opts to compete against Boeing in US air tanker deal

In Uncategorized on April 21, 2010 at 8:36 am

European aerospace giant EADS announced on Tuesday it will bid on a lucrative deal to supply the US Air Force with new aerial refueling tankers, taking on its archrival Boeing.


EADS, the parent of Airbus, will make an offer as the lead contractor, having lost its US partner Northrop Grumman six weeks ago, officials said.


Chief executive officer Louis Gallois said the company wanted to expand in the American defense market, long dominated by Boeing and other US firms.


“We want to increase our presence in the United States,” Gallois said.


EADS had faced a dilemma after Northrop Grumman dropped out of the competition, amid speculation executives had tried but failed to line up another American partner to take Northrop’s place.


Other US firms, including General Electric, Honeywell, Hamilton Sunstrand and Goodrich, would serve as sub-contractors for EADS, officials told reporters in Washington.


“At no point, do we envision going it alone. We’ve got a substantial number of teammates and partners that we’re in pursuit here with,” said Sean O’Keefe, CEO of EADS North America.


“EADS had tried to line up another major American partner but decided to go ahead with a bid, with the help of American subcontractors, when it could not,” The New York Times reported Wednesday citing unnamed industry officials.


Ralph Crosby, chairman of EADS North America, said he believed EADS would prevail in the contest because it had the best aircraft, a version of the Airbus 330, arguing the plane is already flying and in production.


“When you’ve got the best, you’ve got to offer it,” said Crosby, adding in a jab at Boeing that its plane existed only “on paper.”


The move revives a long-running contest between EADS and Boeing for the high-stakes deal, which has been plagued by scandal, intense lobbying in Congress and transatlantic tensions.


The decision came after the US Defense Department said it would extend a May 10 deadline for bidding by 60 days if EADS formally entered the contest.


EADS had asked for a 90-day extension after Northrop Grumman bowed out, saying the contract requirements favored Boeing’s smaller plane.


The Pentagon, which had faced the prospect of Boeing being the sole bidder, welcomed Tuesday’s announcement.


“We have consistently supported competition for the Air Force KC-X tanker replacement program,” it said.


Crosby said the Pentagon’s willingness to extend the deadline for proposals was an “important” factor in the firm’s decision.


Boeing reacted by vowing to prevail in the contest, and repeated criticism of the Pentagon for offering to postpone the deadline for proposals.


“While we are disappointed in the bid submission delay, we hope for a fair and transparent competition free of any additional changes intended to accommodate a non-US prime contractor,” it said.


US Air Force commanders see the planned KC-X aircraft as crucial to reinforcing American air power and are anxious to replace the older Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers that date back to the 1950s.


Industry analysts said EADS faced long odds in trying to beat out Boeing, which could offer a lower price with its smaller plane.


But by choosing to compete, EADS could ensure solid relations from the Pentagon in the future even if it lost the tanker contract, analysts said.


One European source close to the negotiations said EADS entered the contest also because it wanted to “prevent Boeing from running up huge margins” as a sole bidder.


The Northrop-EADS team originally won the contract in February 2008, but the deal was cancelled after Boeing successfully appealed the decision to Congress.


In 2003, the Pentagon awarded an air tanker contract to Boeing but later suspended the deal after an ethics scandal involving a company executive and an Air Force official. The Air Force official was later convicted of criminal conspiracy.


In the last competition, EADS and Northrop offered a modified Airbus 330, while Boeing proposed an altered 767.


Members of Congress have lobbied heavily on behalf of the rival firms, hoping to secure coveted jobs in their states.


EADS officials stressed that if it won the contract, the company and its US sub-contractors would generate tens of thousands of jobs at a plant in Alabama and elsewhere.


Lawmakers from states that are home to Boeing operations, including Washington, vowed to fight to defeat EADS’s effort and criticized the Pentagon for extending the deadline for proposals.


The winner of the lucrative contract to supply 179 planes is expected to be declared by “early fall,” according to the Pentagon.

Source: SGGP

Danish tanker rescued from Somali pirates: task force

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2010 at 11:25 am

MANAMA, April 5, 2010 (AFP) – A Danish tanker escaped a pirate attack in the Gulf of Aden after a French patrolling aircraft forced the Somali attackers to flee, the multi-national anti-piracy force said Monday.


The tanker MV Torm Ragnhild sent a distress call after pirates on two skiffs fired rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at it along an “internationally recommended transit corridor” on Sunday, the Combined Maritime Forces said.


A nearby French aircraft flew to the location where the Danish-flagged ship was trying to evade the attackers by speeding up, zig-zagging and spraying its fire hose, it said in a statement.


“The skiffs broke off their attack after sighting the aircraft,” it said, adding a Japanese aircraft spotted the pirates’ mother ship in the vicinity, identifying it as an Indian-flagged dhow named Safina Al-Gayatri.


The Turkish warship TCG Gelibolu shadowed the Safina as it carried the skiffs to Somalia’s coast, where the pirates abandoned the dhow, said the force, which is based with the US-Navy 5th Fleet in Manama, Bahrain.

A handout photo made available on April 4, 2010 by the EU Navfor Somalia shows the EU Navfor warship HNLMS Tromp (L) as pirate boats on April 2 try to make on approach on it. AFP photo

“Everything went like clockwork. The operation was professionally executed, and another piracy attack was successfully prevented,” said the task force’s commander, Singaporean Rear Admiral Bernard Miranda.


“The Gulf of Aden and the Somali Basin is a huge area… Close coordination and cooperation is extremely critical to optimise the counter-piracy resources in the area,” he said in the statement.


The narrow escape came after a South Korean oil tanker with 24 crew members on board was seized in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday as it headed from Iraq to the United States.


Despite the increased international military presence off Somalia’s coast — Africa’s longest — pirates raked in an estimated 60 million dollars last year.


Alongside the European Union, the United States and other national navies deployed warships off the coastline in December 2008 to protect shipping and secure maritime routes in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

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Source: SGGP

Danish tanker rescued from Somali pirates: task force

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2010 at 11:24 am

MANAMA, April 5, 2010 (AFP) – A Danish tanker escaped a pirate attack in the Gulf of Aden after a French patrolling aircraft forced the Somali attackers to flee, the multi-national anti-piracy force said Monday.


The tanker MV Torm Ragnhild sent a distress call after pirates on two skiffs fired rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at it along an “internationally recommended transit corridor” on Sunday, the Combined Maritime Forces said.


A nearby French aircraft flew to the location where the Danish-flagged ship was trying to evade the attackers by speeding up, zig-zagging and spraying its fire hose, it said in a statement.


“The skiffs broke off their attack after sighting the aircraft,” it said, adding a Japanese aircraft spotted the pirates’ mother ship in the vicinity, identifying it as an Indian-flagged dhow named Safina Al-Gayatri.


The Turkish warship TCG Gelibolu shadowed the Safina as it carried the skiffs to Somalia’s coast, where the pirates abandoned the dhow, said the force, which is based with the US-Navy 5th Fleet in Manama, Bahrain.

A handout photo made available on April 4, 2010 by the EU Navfor Somalia shows the EU Navfor warship HNLMS Tromp (L) as pirate boats on April 2 try to make on approach on it. AFP photo

“Everything went like clockwork. The operation was professionally executed, and another piracy attack was successfully prevented,” said the task force’s commander, Singaporean Rear Admiral Bernard Miranda.


“The Gulf of Aden and the Somali Basin is a huge area… Close coordination and cooperation is extremely critical to optimise the counter-piracy resources in the area,” he said in the statement.


The narrow escape came after a South Korean oil tanker with 24 crew members on board was seized in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday as it headed from Iraq to the United States.


Despite the increased international military presence off Somalia’s coast — Africa’s longest — pirates raked in an estimated 60 million dollars last year.


Alongside the European Union, the United States and other national navies deployed warships off the coastline in December 2008 to protect shipping and secure maritime routes in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

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Source: SGGP