Aid workers kidnapped in Libya – Road to Hope Convoy on the Vessel Strofades IV

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IMMEDIATE PRESS RELEASE EXCLUSIVE – Dramatic footage of the moment the Greek ship’s captain went berserk will soon be available from documentary film maker, Josh Barnes, currently still at Derna Port in Libya with Road to Hope, Convoy to Gaza. To request footage, contact Josh at email is: barnesjoshuawilliam@gmail.com

FULL UPDATED PRESS RELEASE>>:

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VIDEO | BBC: Aid workers held on Boat for Gaza

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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
www.roadtohope.co.uk
+44 7770 376701
elliemerton@gmail.com

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Gaza aid shipment off course after row with captain
Published: 11.12.10, 07:10 / Israel News
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3983523,00.html
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Gaza aid ship held up in Libyan waters
Published today (updated) 11/11/2010 22:57
http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=333219
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Update from Tauqir Tox Sharif
11 November at 21:59
My fone is working now it seems we are close to the shores of Greece. Everyone is fine but the sea is rough people are seasick! We managed to get hold of a radio and make contact with a NATO warship which was meant to come and help us but it never arrived!
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Update from Teampalestine Bradford

http://www.facebook.com/teampalestina
As everyone is aware the Road 2 Hope convoy to Gaza was meant to board a ship yesterday evening and to then sail to Port al-Arish in Egypt. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances they are still waiting at port Derna in Libya. Initia…lly there was some misunderstanding between the captain of the ship and convoy members and this lead to the ship then setting sail with ten members of the convoy and seven other Libyans on the ship, including members of the Libyan Police force.

Convoy members and the remaining aid workers are safe and managing the situation well at port Derna in Libya. Funds that were raised for the shipping cost are safe and the convoy members are currently negotiating an alternative ship to travel into Egypt.

Up to now, it is not clear why the captain of the ship set sail with only a handful of convoy members and left the rest of the members and aid vehicles behind. Relevant authorities are trying to work with all parties to ensure that all onboard the ship are safe.

We ask everyone to pray that everything resumes back to normal as soon as possible and we will do our best to keep you updated.

We appreciate your continued support and prayers and are hopeful that the situation will be resolved very soon. We advise everyone not to circulate unverified information that could adversely affect the progress of the convoy and ultimately the prospects of aid reaching the people of Gaza
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11 November at 15:22 (UKPA)

34 minutes ago
Seven British aid workers, including a mother-of-three from north London, are being held captive on a ship in the Libyan sea in a dispute with the captain over money.

Volunteers on the Road to Hope convoy, an independent humanitarian group bringing aid to Gaza, were taken out to sea after the row with the Greek captain over a payment.

The rear of the ship is only partly closed, and Road to Hope workers are “extremely concerned” for the safety of those onboard.

Among the members of the convoy are Ken O’Keefe, a former US marine, and Laura Stuart, a mother of three from Barnet, north London, both survivors of the Mavi Marmara attack in May this year. Convoy leader Kieran Turner, a humanitarian aid worker from Liverpool, is also one of those held captive at sea.

Ellie Merton, London liaison for the convoy, said: “We are astonished that this has happened – shock isn’t the word. As far as I know, the boat owner became really aggressive over a payment for something, tried to shut the back end of the boat and moved away from the pier really fast.

“The boat was still attached to the quayside and as he drove he yanked the ropes off, there were bits of concrete flying everywhere. We have lost telephone contact with those who are still on the ship against their will – without any paperwork, passports or authority to leave Libya, possessions or, when we last heard, food or water.

“We’re extremely concerned – the boat’s not seaworthy and the captain has shown he is willing to risk life and limb of himself, his crew and the aid workers.”

The ship is now in international waters, where it has been surrounded by Libyan navy ships and two fighter jets. Officials have been negotiating with the captain since Thursday morning.

As well as the seven British volunteers, two Irish, one Algerian and three Libyan officials are on the ship, all aged between 24 and 60 years old.

A spokesman 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 are safe.
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Gaza aid shipment off course after row with captain
TRIPOLI/LONDON | Thu Nov 11, 2010 4:21pm EST
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AA4EW20101111
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Aid workers kidnapped in Libya (Road to Hope Convoy)
http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/wfnews/biog/4967
http://twitter.com/WFGuardian
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Diplomats working to resolve reported hostage-taking on ship By the CNN Wire Staff
November 11, 2010 — Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/11/11/libya.ship.hostage
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More articles on the website of Salem News:
Nov 11-2010: 10 Aid Workers Held Hostage on Greek Owned Ship
http://www.salem-news.com/articles/november102010/libya-ship.php

Nov-10-2010: Greek Ship Captain Threatens to Leave the Gaza Road to Hope Convoy – Bonnie King Salem-News.com

Nov-03-2010: In Limbo in Libya: Gaza Road to Hope Convoy Urges Contact with Egyptian Embassies – Tim King Salem-News.com

Nov-01-2010: Road to Hope (R2H) Convoy in Positive Dialogue with Egyptian Officials – Salem-News.com

Oct-30-2010: Road to Hope Convoy Stalled at Egyptian Border – Salem-News.com

Oct-29-2010: Egypt Working with Road to Hope Convoy: Group Still Enroute to Gaza – Tim King Salem-News.com

Oct-26-2010: Road to Hope Convoy with Ken O’Keefe Approaching Gaza – Tim King Salem-News.com

Sources

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Facebook Group page Road to Hope:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=125051327525642

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Website Road to Hope
Website

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Blog of Ken O’Keefe
http://kenokeefe.wordpress.com

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Click here to follow the Waltham Forest Guardian on Twitter

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Aid workers kidnapped in Libya

Exclusive By Daniel Binns »

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 kidnapping is believed to be linked with 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, 23, 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.

FRIENDS AND FAMILY ‘DEEPLY WORRIED’

Ellie Merton, chair of the Waltham Forest Palestine Solidarity Campaign and friend of Mr Sharif, 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.”

The family of another 20-year-old aid worker from Edmonton who is on board the ship told the Guardian they were deeply worried.

His sister, who did not want to be named, said: “They were stuck at the border with Egypt for two weeks before this but they wouldn’t let them through.

“The charity is just trying to help people out and that’s why my brother went – nothing like this has ever happened to him before.

“We’re very worried, we haven’t heard from him and we just hope he isn’t in too much danger.”

Mr Sharif 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.

More to follow.

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Diplomats working to resolve reported hostage-taking on ship

By the CNN Wire Staff
November 11, 2010 — Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Greek-owned ship left Libya
  • The Road to Hope is working to break the Gaza siege
  • Diplomats are working for a “safe resolution”
RELATED TOPICS

(CNN) — Diplomats are working Thursday to resolve a reported hostage-taking on a ship with a Gaza-bound convoy.

The ship is the Greek-owned Strofades IV — part of a convoy sponsored by the Road to Hope, an independent group of activists working to break Israel’s siege of Gaza.

Ten convoy members — six Britons, two Irish citizens, an Algerian, and a Moroccan — were taken hostage, the group said. Also taken hostage were the manager of Libya’s Derna port and two port authority police officers, it said.

The British Foreign Office said Thursday the vessel departed Libya and is headed toward Greece.

“We are aware of the incident at Derna Port in Libya, and have been in close contact with the convoy organizers,” the British Foreign Office said.

“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.

“We understand that the ship now is heading towards Greek territorial waters. Our embassy in Athens has spoken to the shipping company and is also in close contact with the Greek authorities. Our priority remains that there be a safe resolution to this incident.”

The Road to Hope said the incident took place after the ship owner engaged in an argument with an Egyptian broker.

“The matter is a serious breach of every maritime law possible. We have asked all relevant embassies to supply urgent, immediate, consular assistance. We are extremely concerned for the safety of all the nationals on board,” the group said in a statement.

CNN’s Joe Sterling contributed to this report

<a href=”http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/11/11/libya.ship.hostage/&#8221; target=”_blank”>Source: CNN</a>

Oct-26-2010: Road to Hope Convoy with Ken O’Keefe Approaching Gaza – Tim King Salem-News.com

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