Somali pirates are demanding a ransom for the Saudi oil tanker they hijacked in the Indian Ocean, according to an Al-Jazeera.
Ransom demand for seized supertanker
Somali pirates are demanding a ransom for the Saudi supertanker Sirius Star, a man presented as one of the pirates said today, according to an Al-Jazeera audio tape. "Negotiators are located on board the ship and on land. Once they have agreed on the ransom, it will be taken in cash to the oil tanker," said the man identified as Farah Abd Jameh, who did not indicate the amount to be paid. "We assure the safety of the ship that carries the ransom. We will mechanically count the money and we have machines that can detect fake money," the man said on an audio tape produced by the Dubai-based television network. Seized at the weekend in the Indian Ocean some 800 kilometres off the coast of Kenya, the Sirius Star is now anchored at the Somali pirate lair of Harardhere, according to local officials. The supertanker was loaded to capacity with two million barrels of oil when it was seized along with its crew of 25. Nineteen of the crew were from the Philippines, two from Britain, two from Poland, one Croatian and one Saudi. It was the largest ship yet taken by Somali pirates and the attack furthest away from Somalia. The Somali pirates have seized another ship today, a Greek bulk carrier, despite a large international naval presence in the waters off their lawless country, a regional maritime group said. The East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme said the Greek vessel was taken yesterday in the Gulf of Aden. "The pirates are sending out a message to the world that 'we can do what we want, we can think the unthinkable, do the unexpected'," Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the Mombasa-based group, said in the Kenyan port of Mombasa. His organisation has been monitoring this year's explosion in piracy off Somalia, motivated by the lure of multi-million-dollar ransoms. Mr Mwangura said the Greek ship had between 23 and 25 crew members but he had no further details. It followed the hijacking, also in the Gulf of Aden, of a Hong Kong-flagged ship carrying grain and bound for Iran. Rampant piracy in the region has driven up insurance costs, made some shipping companies take a route around South Africa instead of through the Suez Canal, and prompted an unprecedented response from Nato and the European Union among others. Somali pirates are holding about a dozen ships and more than 200 hostages, most near Eyl village on the northern coast. * Reuters and AFP