Indian sailors freed in Somalia after paying fines

Mogadishu, Jan 17 (AFP) Fourteen Indian sailors convictedof illegally exporting charcoal from areas controlled bySomalia''s Shebab rebels have been freed after paying fines, anofficial said.

The sailors were sentenced by a Mogadishu court onSaturday to one year in prison or a fine of USD 10,000 (7,500euros) for illegally exporting charcoal from Somalia. Theywere released yesterday.

"The Indian crew members regained their freedom (Sunday)afternoon after paying money to avoid serving the prison term.

They can go home now," said General Abdulahi Moalim Ali ofSomalia''s prison service.

The crew was arrested last week by the Western-backedSomali government''s coastguards while transporting thecharcoal from the country''s southern port of Kismayo.

Charcoal is a key source of revenue for theAl-Qaeda-inspired Shebab militia controlling much of Somalia''ssouthern and central regions.

Most of the charcoal smugglers use Indian dhows to taketheir cargo to Gulf states, notably the United Arab Emirateswhere the import of charcoal is not banned. (AFP)

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