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Foreign oil workers evacuated from Puntland exploration site
BOSSASO, Somalia June 7, 2008 - A group of foreigners working in Somalia's Puntland regions have been evacuated from an oil exploration site set up last month, informed sources tell Garowe Online.
Six to eight foreign workers were secretly transported Friday night from the operations camp in Ufayn town, which is located 90km east of the port city of Bossaso, the northeastern region's economic hub.
The workers are currently staying at an undisclosed location inside Bossaso, the sources added.
Somali news agency Garowe Online conducted an independent inquiry into the evacuation and its causes, with emerging reports indicating that the foreign workers were evacuated for security-related reasons.
Earlier this week, clan elders in Ufayn town informed senior government officials in Puntland that they could not guarantee the personal safety of the foreigners – who are contracted by Canada-based Africa Oil Corp.
Secret talks have been taking place in Bossaso and Ufayn all week, as Puntland officials and local elders tried to reach a settlement.
According to insiders, elders representing the dominant clan in Ufayn have demanded that they receive the original contract signed between the Puntland government and Africa Oil.
In response, Puntland President Adde Muse dispatched Liban Muse Bogor to Ufayn to convince the clan elders to support the ongoing exploration project.
But local elders rejected Mr. Bogor's mediation efforts, with some elders openly questioning his role due to his position on the board of directors of Australian mining firm Range Resources, Ltd., Africa Oil's joint partner in the Puntland exploration project.
The Puntland leader has not yet addressed these new developments, but confidential sources said the clan elders have pledged to protect vehicles, tents and other equipment at the exploration site in the mean time.
Currently, clan militias under the order of the elders are standing guard at the operations camp in Ufayn, locals reported.
Since mid-2005, Puntland leaders have been trying to explore for oil in Somalia, a Horn of Africa country mired in 18 years of political anarchy.
Many armed clans in Puntland have opposed the exploration project from the onset, citing the lack of a strong national government in Somalia and the lack of legality and transparency in the ongoing push for exploration.
Source: Garowe Online