Monthly Archives: November 2010

‘Captive’ aid workers arrive in Greece after ship trip

 Pic: Tauqir Sharif

A ship carrying a group of 10 aid workers – including seven Britons who alleged that the captain had held them captive – has docked at a Greek port.

The captain of Strofades IV took the volunteers to his native Greece after leaving his Libya moorings on Thursday.

But ship managers said the “activists” jumped on board and the captain set sail to stop others boarding amid fears they would divert the ship to Gaza.

Officials from the Foreign Office were at the port to meet the aid workers.

Earlier Greek commandos boarded the ship as it waited outside Piraeus Harbour in Athens following the journey from Libya’s Derna Harbour.

Ellie Merton, the London liaison for the group – part of the Road to Hope aid convoy – confirmed all of those who were on-board were safe and uninjured.

She said Kieran Turner, originally from Liverpool and among those on board the boat, had told her via the telephone that the Greek authorities had been “lovely” and “very sympathetic” and were looking after the volunteers.

She said the aid workers were hoping to disembark within the next half hour.

The FCO said the British Embassy in Athens had been in contact with the ship’s owners and the Greek authorities throughout the incident.

Gaza-bound

Earlier Tauqir Sharif from Walthamstow in London told the BBC that the situation had been worrying.

“Six of us are Muslims and have beards, it’s not looking good,” he said, adding that the captain had called them terrorists.

The other British nationals on-board include Mustapha El-Guerbouzi, Raheal Parveez, Yunus Malik, Nagib Elgarib Elbarrami, who are all from London.

Khalid Mohamed Omar Ali, whose hometown has not yet been reported, is also from the UK.

Algerian Aziz Mekkati, and David Callender and Kenneth O’Keefe from Ireland, are also on-board.

The volunteers say they have been searched by Greek commandos

Mr Sharif, who is also known as Tox, was also on the Gaza-bound aid ship Mavi Marmara which tried to breach an Israeli naval blockade in May this year.

The charity said the captain had become irritable in the port area over payments, but insisted the group had given the money in cash to a shipping agent.

She said the captain appeared to fear that the agent would not pay him the £56,000 ($90,000) fee for the trip to Gaza.

But the Greek managing company behind the Strofades IV has denied reports the aid workers were held against their will.

Ionian Bridge Shipmanagement said 10 of around 150 activists had jumped on board the ship at Derna, forcing the captain to set off to prevent all of them boarding and taking over the ship.

It said the captain was afraid more would board and divert the ship to Gaza, which is under an Israeli naval blockade.

The company said in a statement: “We never intended to transfer the activists, because we realised they wanted to lead the ship not to El Arish but Gaza, to break the embargo and pitch us against the Israeli navy. We wanted to leave, fearing for our lives.”

BBC News Report Video and Names of of the 10 Aid Workers

KIDNAPPED AID-WORKERS SPEAK OF CONTINUING ORDEAL ABOARD ABSCONDING GREEK SHIP

10 aid workers have made their first contact by mobile phone text messages to family and friends. They have spoken at length about their ordeal onboard “Strofades IV” Greek-owned ship, registered in Malta.

The 10 aid workers are out of physical danger, sitting together in one small cabin in the lower-deck’s crew quarters of the ship. They want to reassure everyone they are OK:

Mustapha El-Guerbouzi (46) – UK National, resident in West London
Kieran L Turner (38) – UK National, resident in Liverpool
Raheal Parveez (25) – UK National, resident in North East London
Aziz Mekkati (43) – Algerian National, resident in Algeria
Yunus Malik (23) – UK National, resident in London
Nagib Elgarib Elbarrami (32) – UK National
David T Callander (35) – Irish National
Tauqir A Sharif (23)- UK National, resident in North East London
Kenneth O’Keefe (41)- Irish National
Khalid Mohamed Omar Ali (21) – UK National

There are 7 (more than previously reported) Libyans on the ship as well. The Libyans include customs inspectors, border police and the harbour manager for Derna Port. The Libyans are being treated better than the aid workers, seem to have separate cabins, have more freedom of movement and are in contact with Libyan authorities by radio and mobile phone.

Kieran Turner says: “At one point we managed to get hold of a ship’s radio, and got through to a nearby tanker – OCL Oakland. Through the tanker we sent out distress messages, requesting help, and these got passed onto two alleged Nato warships in the area P492 and F452.”

Ken O’Keefe added: “They said they would help, but no one has come to rescue us. That was some hours ago.”

Kieran adds: “At first we were made to stay in the loading bay area at the rear of the ship, which was really dangerous once the ship got out to sea – the ship’s loading door is still open at a 45degree angle! They didn’t give us any life jackets. And that was when the weather was still calm. The weather is rough now – you can just imagine…”

Kieran further adds: “Initially we were stopped from moving around the ship and had to stay in the bottom of the lower deck. Eventually we just walked through to the crew quarters, and they’ve let us occupy their small smoking room. At least we are safe and in the dry, and it has a couch so we can try to sleep. We’ve been given one meal, of sorts, since the ship left Derna. We’ve got access to water, but it’s not drinking water.”

Ken O’Keefe has tried to talk to the Captain on a number of occasions. At first he succeeded in talking to him, but since then the captain has blanked him.

The 10 convoyers still do not know where the boat is headed. They asked Ellie to describe to them where the ship appeared on an internet “ship tracking” website. She described they were about 25 miles off the western tip of Crete, heading due north further into Greek territorial waters. The guess is that the berthing port chosen by the captain will be a small, regional port west of Athens on mainland Greece, several hours sail away.

Ellie says: “The relief being able to talk to them was huge: to know they are physically safe and unharmed. However, we remain extremely worried about their overall safety – rough seas, and a bow door open at 45degree angle? It’s criminal the captain is sailing in rough weather with an unsecured vessel. Really shocking. I am also disappointed to hear the ship owner and his assistant are armed, and refuse to give the convoyers freedom of movement around the ship. The aid workers are genuine hostages. It is still deeply worrying.”

For further information, please contact:

Ellie Merton
London Liaison
Road to Hope, Convoy to Gaza
http://roadtohope.co.uk/
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid…

VIDEO!!! Road To Hope Aid Convoy members Held Hostage!

Greek commandos on board ship with ‘seized’ aid workers

Greek commandos have boarded a ship outside Piraeus Harbour in Athens where a group of aid workers claim they have been held captive since Thursday.

The captain of Strofades IV took the volunteers to his native Greece after leaving Derna Harbour in Libya.

But ship managers said the “activists” jumped on board and the captain set sail to stop others boarding amid fears they would divert the ship to Gaza.

The Foreign Office is investigating the reports involving seven UK aid workers.

The British Embassy in Athens has also told the BBC it was in contact with the ship’s owners and the Greek authorities, and was trying to ensure a safe resolution.

The ship is being held outside Piraeus Harbour – the main port in Athens.

‘Suspects’ – During a terse mobile phone call from the deck of the Strofades IV cargo ship, charity worker Tox (Tauqir) Sharif told me that Greek commandos boarded the vessel as it approached the port of Piraeus.
He said seven aid workers from Britain and two from Ireland were being held.
“Six of us are Muslims and have beards, it’s not looking good,” he said, adding that the captain had called them terrorists.
According to Mr Sharif, Libyan naval vessels and aircraft set out in pursuit but gave up when the Strofades IV entered international waters.
Mr Sharif said a Greek warship and coastguard vessel began shadowing the cargo ship as it approached Piraeus.

Ellie Merton, the London liaison for the group, also told the BBC: “The group is in a secure situation with the Greek navy – who were allowed to go on the ship.”

She clarified earlier reports that the group, part of the Road to Hope aid convoy, had been held at gunpoint by the soldiers and said: “There are guns there but they are not being held at gunpoint.”

Mr Sharif revealed in an update on the social networking site Facebook that the soldiers searched the group.

Ms Merton added: “The guys were initially really alarmed. They had been on the ship for 30 hours and then the commandos came on and they felt as if they were being treated like suspects.

“But the commandos are helping the ship go through the busy port. We are confident about the way the Greek authorities are behaving.”

The other British nationals on-board include Mustapha El-Guerbouzi, Raheal Parveez, Yunus Malik, Nagib Elgarib Elbarrami, all from London, and Kieran Turner, from Liverpool.

Khalid Mohamed Omar Ali, whose hometown has not yet been reported, is also from the UK.

Algerian Aziz Mekkati, and David Callender and Kenneth O’Keefe from Ireland are also on-board.

There are also seven Libyans on the boat. They are said to include customs inspectors, border police and the harbour manager for Derna Port in Libya.

Mr Sharif, who is also known as Tox, was also on the Gaza-bound aid ship Mavi Marmara which tried to breach an Israeli naval blockade in May this year.

The British Foreign Office said it was aware of the incident and had been in close contact with the convoy’s organisers.

“We have been informed that the ship has now anchored outside of Piraeus port, Greece, and we understand docking will take a few hours,” it said in a statement.

“British Embassy staff will provide consular assistance to the British nationals on board, if requested.

“We remain in close contact with the Greek authorities, and our priority remains that there is a safe resolution to this incident.”

‘Great concern’

Ms Merton said the captain became irritable in the port area over payments but the group had given the money in cash to a shipping agent.

Volunteers speaking to Greek commandos Pic: Tauqir Sharif The volunteers say they have been searched by Greek commandos

She said the captain appeared to fear that the agent would not pay him the £56,000 ($90,000) fee for the trip to Gaza.

Text messages sent from the group to Ms Merton on Thursday as they were taken to Greece suggest that the volunteers were kept in one small cabin.

In one message, Mr Turner said: “Initially we were stopped from moving around the ship and had to stay in the bottom of the lower deck.

“Eventually we just walked through to the crew quarters, and they’ve let us occupy their small smoking room.

“At least we are safe and in the dry, and it has a couch so we can try to sleep. We’ve been given one meal, of sorts, since the ship left Derna. We’ve got access to water, but it’s not drinking water.”

But the Greek managing company behind the Strofades IV has denied reports the aid workers were held against their will.

Ionian Bridge Shipmanagement said 10 of around 150 activists had jumped on board the ship at Derna, forcing the captain to set off to prevent all of them boarding and taking over the ship.

It said the captain was afraid more would board and divert the ship to Gaza, which is under an Israeli naval blockade.

The company said in a statement: “We never intended to transfer the activists, because we realised they wanted to lead the ship not to El Arish but Gaza, to break the embargo and pitch us against the Israeli navy. We wanted to leave, fearing for our lives.”

About 70 other volunteers on the convoy, including four people from Londonderry, remain stranded in Libya after the captain stopped them from boarding his ship.

Betty Doherty, from Derry, said the group’s passports were taken from them.

CHINGFORD: Aid worker kidnapped in Libya

Tauqir Sharif is heading out to Pakistan next week following the devastating floods there.

AN AID worker has smuggled a desperate message to the Guardian after he and five other British citizens were kidnapped in Libya.

In a text sent this morning, Tauqir Sharif, of Warwick Road in Chingford, said the vessel bound for Gaza had been seized in the Libyan port of Derna at around 12.30am this morning UK time.

It is unclear who has taken the boat, although the seizure is believed to be linked to a financial dispute.

The boat was last seen sailing out to sea and is reportedly heading for Greece.

The Foreign Office says it has begun diplomacy to try and get the group returned unharmed.

Mr Sharif said: “We have been kidnapped at sea – this isn’t a joke.

“I’m hiding my phone to get word out…we’ve been hijacked.”

The convoy set off several weeks ago as part of the ‘Road to Hope’ campaign.

It has reportedly been at the Libyan border with Egypt for over two weeks awaiting entry to Gaza.

Six UK nationals including Mr Sharif are thought to be on-board, along with three Libyans – including two port authority policemen and the manager of Derna Port, Colonel Salahuddin Rashin.

Two Irish citizens, a Moroccan and an Algerian are also said to be on board.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said: “We are aware of the incident at Derna Port in Libya, and have been in close contact with the Convoy organisers.

“Our Embassy in Tripoli has been urging the Libyan authorities to resolve the situation rapidly and ensure that those caught on the ship are returned to safety.”

Campaigners back in the UK say the people responsible for the alleged kidnapping are thought to be of Ukrainian and Greek origin.

Ellie Merton, chair of the Waltham Forest Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “We think the ship is several miles out to sea in the Med now. They’ve been making slow but steady headway.

“We’ve no idea what [the hostage takers] are up to.

“They’ve set out to to sea with the back door open – it’s criminally stupid. We all remember Zeebrugge.

“I just feel physically sick that something will happen to the international aid workers and the Libyan officials who are hostage on that boat.”

Mr Sharif, 23, was on board another convey of boats bound for Gaza back in May when they were seized by Israeli troops in the Mediterranean sea.

Nine people, including friends of Mr Sharif, were killed in the raid.

UPDATE: 1PM 

The Libyan Navy has reportedly sent four ships and is tracking the ship in open waters – but no force has been used.

Two fighter jets have also been deployed, according to campaigners from ‘Road to Hope’.

They have also claimed that the captain of the ship has said he intends on proceeding to Greece where he will drop off the hostages.

http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/wfnews/8630603.BREAKING_NEWS__Aid_ship_hijacked_in_Libya/

Greek Ship Captain Threatens to Leave the Gaza Road to Hope Convoy

“We are being forcefully taken out of the harbour with the captain going crazy ordering the ship to leave!!!” Ken O’Keefe

Salem-News.com
Photo: Ken O’Keefe

(TOBRUK / SALEM) – “Now the captain is threatening to leave without us despite 75,000 dollars being paid to his agent for the charter of this ship. We are on the verge of a stand off using our bodies on the back of the ship,” wrote Ken O’Keefe, minutes ago.

And now, “We are being forcefully taken out of the harbour with the captain going crazy ordering the ship to leave!!!”

O’Keefe is a part of the Road to Hope convoy, over a dozen vehicles on their way to Gaza to deliver much needed aid. They have been stuck in Libya at the Egyptian border for over two weeks, hoping to gain entry and passage to Gaza.

Things looked quite hopeful at first, and the group was confident that they would be successful in getting through to Gaza with the aid. But things change very quickly, particularly where politics and bureaucracy are concerned.

The best route at this point seems not to be through Egypt, but around it, via the sea. That plan created a new problem, coming up with an extra 100,000 British pounds to get the convoy to Gaza by boat instead of by land.

The Mavi Marmara was the main ship in the Freedom Flotilla that sailed from Turkey en route for Gaza at the end of May. They were intercepted in international waters by the Israeli military and nine humanitarian activists were killed. According to the recent UN investigation of the tragedy at sea, five of the nine fatalities were deemed “executions”, at the hands of Israeli commandos.

There are eight people on the Road to Hope Convoy that were on the flotilla mission. Ken O’Keefe is one of them.

Friends and supporters were thrilled earlier today, to hear that they were on their way.

Strofades IV – IMO 8012152

About 11:00 a.m. PT Ken O’Keefe texted, “We have negotiated for all of the convoy members to travel with the ship to Al Arish, for an additional fee. All in all this is good news. Myself and Saeb Shaath remain on the ship to ensure it does not depart without all of us and our aid/vehicles. Now we just need to urge Egypt too allow all of us to reach Gaza as one. TJP”

Ellie Merton posted that she was “overwhelmed to report the convoy is at last embarking on a ship this evening, destined for El Arish before the weekend. The extraordinary people of Tobruk have persevered and won this epic bureaucratic battle for the convoy, for Libya, for Palestine and especially for Gaza. We LOVE Tobruk!”

Next Ken O’Keefe texted, “We are racing to catch the ship to Al Arish, 30 of us, including myself, are on the ship. The(y) will fly to meet us there. Barring further delay, we will be in Gaza within the next few days. Several survivors of the Mavi Marmara still with a green light to go. Wish us all good fortune. To our family in Gaza, we hope to see you soon.”

A few hours later, things again took a negative turn. “55,000 dollars have been transferred for ship payment, despite this the Greek owner of the ship (the Strofades IV, Malta flagged) is currently refusing us to board the ship…” O’Keefe said.

“We now have about 8 of our brothers and one vehicle on the back ramp as the captain is lifting it. Our vehicle is on the verge of sliding down the ramp and slamming into deck,” O’Keefe said at 2:10 p.m. PT.

And now the world awaits, to see if they will be allowed to proceed to Gaza on the humanitarian mission.

Valley Of The Wolves: Palestine

Trailer for Turkish movie following Polat Alemdar and his team as they go to Israel to track down the Israeli military commander who planned and put into force the May 31, 2010 Israeli boarding of the Gaza Flotilla ship, the Mavi Marmara.
http://www.kurtlarvadisifilistin.com/…

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