MOGADISHU // Disagreements between Somali pirates holding a Ukrainian ship laden with tanks and heavy weapons escalated into a shoot-out and three pirates are believed dead, a US defence official said today. The pirates have denied the report. The US destroyer USS Howard and several other American ships have surrounded the cargo ship Faina, which was hijacked on Thursday and is now anchored off the lawless coast of Somalia.
The pirates have demanded a ransom of US$20 million (Dh73m) and the US Navy cordon aims to prevent them from taking any of the weapons ashore. The official in Washington who reported the shoot-out spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the record. He refused to elaborate. But the pirate spokesman insisted the report was not true. "We didn't dispute over a single thing, let alone have a shoot-out," the pirate spokesman Sugule Ali said by satellite telephone today.
He said the Somali pirates were celebrating the Muslim feast of Eid al Fitr despite being surrounded by American warships and helicopters. "We are happy on the ship and we are celebrating Eid," Mr Ali said. "Nothing has changed." Earlier today, Andrew Mwangura of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Program cited an unconfirmed report saying three Somali pirates were killed last night in a dispute over whether to surrender.
Mr Mwangura said, however, the report was third-hand and he had not spoken to any witnesses. *AP