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SOF World Report

Record Ransom Frees Hijacked Tanker off Somali Coast

A record ransom payment has secured the release of a massive oil tanker seized in November by Somali pirates.  Piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia nearly doubled in 2009 from the previous year. The Maran Centaurus was the second-largest vessel ever captured and was carrying an estimated $2 million barrels of oil. The pirates claim they received $5.5 million for the ship's freedom, but a separate figure places the amount dropped on the ship at $7 million.  Both are believed to exceed any previous figure paid to the Somali sea bandits. Andrew Mwangura of the Kenya-based East Africa

Florida Guard Establishes Flight Center for Haiti

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla., Jan. 18, 2010 – The Florida Air National Guard's 101st Air and Space Operations Group here is paving the way for air operations in the emergency response to Haiti.  Florida Guardsmen have been working to assist the Haitian government, Federal Aviation Administration, and U.S. Southern Command in coordinating the flow of supplies into Haiti’s Port-au-Prince Airport since Jan.

Comfort Staff Readies for Haitian Patients

As the hospital ship USNS Comfort continues its race south to Haiti, sailors aboard the vessel race to get the facilities ready for the expected patients. The Comfort, bulling its way through stormy seas, will receive another 350 medical personnel and support staff when it reaches the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, Navy Capt. (Dr.) Jim Ware, commander of the medical treatment facility. This, he explained, will allow the staff to double the number of operating rooms. The staff wants 11 operating rooms ready upon arrival in Port-au-Prince, expected to be Jan. 21.

Haiti Earthquake Displaces 300,000

In its first estimate, the United Nations reports about 10 percent of the housing in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince has been destroyed, leaving some 300,000 people homeless.  The UN says a full assessment of the damages inflicted by the powerful earthquake will take several days to complete. The United Nations says some 3.5 million people are living in areas affected by the earthquake. Nearly three million are in the capital, Port-au-Prince, which was most seriously affected.  Aid agencies say it is too soon to know how many people were killed and injured.

US, China at Odds Over Taiwan Arms Deal

China is warning the United States that the recently announced sale of air defense missiles to Taiwan could damage trust between Washington and Beijing, and that further protests might follow.  China has called on the United States to end all arms sales to the island, but the missile deal is one of several advanced weapons systems that are likely to be approved by the U.S. Congress in the coming months. The planned U.S. sale of Patriot air defense missiles to Taiwan is part of a larger package of high-end military hardware that originally was approved by former U.S. president George W.

Southern African Leaders Discuss Madagascar, Zimbabwe at Summit

Southern African leaders have rejected plans by the leader of Madagascar to unilaterally organize national elections in March.

USS Carl Vinson Arrives in Haiti

ABOARD USS CARL VINSON IN THE CARIBBEAN SEA, Jan. 15, 2010 – The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arrived off the coast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, today to begin humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.  “Our initial focus is to concentrate on saving lives while providing first-responder support to the people of Haiti,” said Navy Rear Adm. Ted N. Branch, commander of the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group and of the sea-based portion of the Navy’s humanitarian-support mission in the earthquake-stricken nation.

International Relief Operations Under Way in Haiti

International aid agencies report emergency operations for earthquake victims in Haiti are slowly gathering steam.  But, they say they are working under severe constraints and it will take time before essential, critical needs are met. The United Nations reports the airport is open, but is congested and good coordination will be necessary to move relief goods to affected areas.

Pirate Attacks Off Somalia Nearly Double

The International Maritime Bureau in London reports piracy incidents on the high seas increased nearly 40 percent in 2009 from a year ago.  Pirate activities off the coast of Somalia accounted for more than half of all attacks worldwide. In its annual report, the maritime watchdog said the number of attacks off the coast of Somalia doubled in 2009 from 111 to 217.   According to the bureau, pirates successfully hijacked 47 of those vessels and took 867 crew members hostage, earning them untold millions in ransom payments. The director of the International Maritime Bureau, Captain Potteng