, LONDON Aug 3 – Somalia’s pirates could be granted an amnesty if they release hostages and return captured vessels to their owners, transitional president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed told the London Times.
The head of Somalia’s corruption-riddled government, whose current mandate expires next month, said he was prepared to let off the 2,000 pirates thought to be operating off the troubled nation’s coast in comments published in Friday’s Times.
“Those who leave behind what they have done will be forgiven,” he said, after campaigning in Balad, 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Mogadishu.
“The government will make clear that the doors are open, if they want to come in,” he added.
Sharif, who faces competition for the presidency from parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, was linked to alleged graft in a UN report leaked earlier this month that called for corrupt leaders to face Security Council sanctions.
The report contained claims that Sharif had given a diplomatic passport to pirate ringleader Mohamed Abide Hassan as an inducement to wind down his network.
Sharif called the allegations “absolutely false” and said that he was unconcerned about the possibility of UN sanctions.
The United Nations estimates that pirates currently hold 245 hostages while the European Union’s anti-piracy task force believes at least seven hijacked vessels remain in their hands.
Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali vowed the pirates would not “get away with murder” but said the government was prepared to compromise.
“My philosophy is you never, ever reach peace through violence,” he explained, according to the Times.
“There is no mercy for pirates, not from me, but if someone gives up and says, ‘I repent and want forgiveness’, then we have to do it,” he added.