Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Pirates say they do not fear fighters

Tensions mount between pirates holding a Saudi tanker and fighters threatening to attack them.

MOGADISHU // Tension mounted yesterday between pirates holding a Saudi tanker and Islamist fighters threatening to attack them, with a week remaining for the ship's owners to meet a ransom demand of US$25 million (Dh92m). "If the pirates want peace, they had better release the tanker," Sheikh Ahmed, a spokesman for the Shebab group in the coastal region of Harardhere, said by phone.

The Sirius Star, a huge tanker carrying around $100m worth of crude oil owned by Saudi Aramco, was hijacked in the space of 16 minutes by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean on Nov 15. Pirates have since anchored it off their base in Harardhere, north of Mogadishu, and demanded the ransom be paid by Sunday. The Shebab (youth) armed group, which controls much of southern and central Somalia and rejects an internationally backed peace process, has positioned fighters in and around Harardhere in recent days.

Islamist leaders have stressed that piracy is a capital offence under Islam and officially condemned the surge in acts of piracy in Somalia's waters, which has begun to disrupt international trade. A member of the pirate group holding the Sirius Star retorted that his own men were not afraid of Shebab's threats. "We are the Shebab of the sea and we can't be scared by the Shebab of the land," Mohamed Said said. "If anybody attempts to attack, that would be suicide."

Mr Said announced on Thursday that his group was demanding $25m to release the vessel, which is carrying the equivalent of almost one quarter of Saudi Arabia's daily output. "I am not on the tanker at the moment because I am co-ordinating what is happening on the ground," he said. "There is a small Shebab vanguard on the ground, but we also have a strong presence. Every Somali has great respect for the holy kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We have nothing against them, but unfortunately what happened was just business for us and I hope the Saudis will understand."

Some residents in Harardhere have said the Shebab are divided over the issue of piracy and that some of the Islamist fighters have moved into the region only to claim a share of the ransom. Members of the pirate group said on Saturday that talks were underway with Saudi Aramco's shipping arm and assured that the crew would not be harmed. No breakthrough had yet been achieved, the group said. "I hope the owner of the tanker is wise enough and won't allow any military option because that would be disastrous for everybody. We are here to defend the tanker if attacked," Abdiyare Moalim, another member of the group, said.

The capture of the Sirius Star, the biggest ship ever hijacked, and its oil cargo has sowed panic in the shipping world, with companies now rerouting deliveries via the Cape of Good Hope, adding substantial time and transit costs. Over the past week, two major shipping industry players, Odfjell of Norway and AP Moeller-Maersk of Denmark, have announced that part or all of their fleets will from now on sail around South Africa's southern tip.

Pirates operating from Somalia currently hold at least 17 ships, including a Ukrainian cargo vessel carrying 33 combat tanks destined for South Sudan. * Agence France-Presse

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National