A spokesman for pirates holding a Saudi supertanker loaded with crude oil has told the British Broadcasting Corp they have not set any ransom figure. The spokesman said the group has only spoken to intermediaries of the vessel's owners but he claimed they were not trustworthy. The pirate identified himself using only one name, Daybad, when he spoke late yesterday to the BBC. Somali pirates seized the Sirius Star on Nov 15 in their most audacious hijacking to date. The vessel is carrying two million barrels of crude oil, worth about $100 million. A day earlier, reports said the hijackers cut their ransom demand on the supertanker to US$15 million (Dh55m) from $25 million. The captain of the supertanker, Marek Nishky, said he and his crew have no complaint and have been allowed to talk to their families. The Somali pirates allowed Mr Nishky to speak to the BBC. But spokesman Abdirahim Isse Adow, whose men are in the Haradheere area where the ship is being held offshore, said the demand was reduced. "Middlemen have given a $15m ransom figure for the Saudi ship. That is the issue now," he said. Mr Mwangura said his sources were confirming a reduced $15m demand. The hijackers' comments today came amid word of the latest ship seizure, this time a Yemeni cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden, according to a regional maritime official. Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme, identified the Yemeni vessel as the MV Amani. No other details were immediately available.
Scores of attacks this year have brought millions of dollars of ransom payments, hiked up shipping insurance costs, sent foreign navies rushing to the area, and left about a dozen boats with more than 200 hostages still in pirates' hands.
Following the hijack of an Iranian-chartered ship last week, the Iranian deputy transport minister said Tehran could use force if necessary against pirates. "Iran's view is that such issues should be confronted strongly," the deputy transport Minister Ali Taheri was quoted in the Ebtekar daily. *Reuters/AP