x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Pirates 'want $35m ransom'

A man claiming to speak for pirates holding a Ukrainian ship laden with tanks says they want US$35m for its release.

MOGADISHU, Somalia // A man claiming to speak for pirates holding a Ukrainian ship laden with tanks said today that they want US$35 million (Dh128m) for its release. It was not immediately possible to confirm the claim by Ali Yare Abdulkadir, or his status. Speaking by telephone, he said the pirates want to negotiate with the Kenyan government, and he warned against any military action to release the ship. He would not reveal his whereabouts.

The tanks aboard the ship, which was hijacked on Thursday, were ordered by Kenya. The Kenyan defence department spokesman Bogita Ongeri said today that Kenyan authorities have had no contact with the pirates who seized the vessel and its cargo, and have not received any demands for ransom. Mr Ongeri said the Ukrainian vessel was seized in international waters in the Gulf of Aden. He said that the pirates hijacked the ship 370km from the coast of the northeastern Somali region of Puntland.

Ukraine's defence chief said yesterday that the Faina was carrying 33 Russian-built T-72 tanks and a substantial quantity of ammunition and spare parts. Russia's navy said it dispatched a warship to the area, and the US said American naval ships were monitoring the situation. The audacious hijacking is part of a surge of high-seas piracy that has long been a hazard for maritime shippers, particularly in the Indian Ocean and its peripheries.

In the latest attack, reported today by an international anti-piracy watchdog group, armed pirates seized a Greek chemical tanker with 19 crew members in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia on Friday. The tanker, carrying a cargo of refined petroleum from Europe to the Middle East, was ambushed, chased and fired upon, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting centre in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, a group of Somali pirates have released an Egyptian ship with 25 crew on board which was hijacked earlier this month off Somalia's Puntland region, the official Mena news agency reported today. The pirates, who had demanded a ransom before releasing the hostages and ship, allowed the vessel to set sail late yesterday, Mena reported, adding that the ship was currently in international waters on its way back to Egypt. The release came after weeks of negotiations between the pirates and Egyptian intelligence officials, according to Mena. No details were available on whether a ransom was paid.

*AP and AFP