Somali pirates demand $5 mn for Ukraine ship

September 28th, 2008 - 8:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Nairobi/Mogadishu, Sep 28 (DPA) Somali pirates in possession of a Ukrainian ship Sunday demanded $5 million in ransom, after originally asking for $35 million, said Andrew Mwangura, head of East Africa’s Seafarer’s Assistance Programme.The ship was carrying 33 tanks and “weapons of all kinds” destined for Kenya, said a spokesman for the pirates identified as Januna Ali Jama.

The reduction of the ransom was likely due to the fact that the tanks were used, and that the pirates faced greater risk of arrest should they attempt to unload the equipment, said Mwangura.

The reduced ransom being asked for still exceeds previous demands, which usually hover around the $1-2 million mark.

Meanwhile, the BBC reported that a US Navy destroyer had approached within visibility range of the captured ship. There was no word as to any plan of action by the US military.

A Russian military vessel was also said to be headed to the area.

The ship was seized late Thursday off Somalia as it headed for the Kenyan port of Mombasa. A total of 21 crewmembers - 17 Ukrainians, three Russians and one Latvian - were onboard when the ship was chased down and boarded by armed men in three launches.

Ukraine Defence Minister Yury Yekhanurov confirmed Saturday in Kiev that the vessel was transporting 33 medium T-72 tanks “and a substantial amount of military materials”.

Armoured personnel carriers and munitions are also believed to be part of the delivery.

Piracy is rife in the Gulf of Aden - a strategic shipping route off Somalia - with over a dozen ships currently in the hands of armed groups, the latest victim being a Greek vessel seized Saturday.

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