Somali pirates hijack Yemeni cargo ship, demand ransom (Lead)

November 25th, 2008 - 4:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Sanaa (Yemen), Nov 25 (DPA) Somali pirates have hijacked a Yemeni cargo ship in the Arabian Sea and demanded $2 million as ransom for its release, maritime sources said Tuesday.The sources in the south-eastern Yemeni port of Mukalla told reporters that the vessel, Erina, was attacked as it sailed from Mukalla to the Indian Ocean island of Socotra on Nov 19.

Armed pirates took the ship to the port of Eyl in the semi-autonomous Puntland region in northern Somalia, they said.

The ship is carrying 570 tons of steel and construction equipment belonging to the Juraiba and Bin-Makhzoum Construction company in Mukalla.

A source in the company told DPA that negotiations between the ship’s owner, who is a Yemeni of Somali origin, and the pirates were ongoing.

This was the largest Yemeni ship to be hijacked by Somali pirates. In the past few months pirates attacked fishing boats owned by Yemeni fishermen in the Gulf of Aden.

The Gulf of Aden which connects the Indian Ocean with the Mediterranean and the Pacific oceans through the Suez Canal to be one of the busiest maritime trade routes, has seen an alarming rise in piracy, mostly by Somali insurgents who have been encouraged by the absence of an effective government in the country.

The hijacked ships included a Saudi Arabian supertanker loaded with crude oil worth some $100 million.

The tanker, the Sirius Star, belongs to Saudi Arabia’s state-owned Vela International and was carrying two million barrels of oil. It was hijacked Nov 15, about 833 km off the coast of Somalia, along with 25 crew members from Britain, Poland, Croatia and Saudi Arabia.

An Indian Navy ship last week sank a pirate vessel in the area. New Delhi has expressed its readiness to send naval vessels to protect commercial ships passing the Gulf of Aden from pirates.

All the Indian crew members of the MT Stolt Valor, hijacked by Somali pirates two months ago, returned to Delhi early Tuesday. The 18 Indians were part of the 22-member crew of the vessel which was hijacked off the coast of Yemen Nov 16.

There are currently 15 warships in the region, including four NATO vessels, and ships from India, Malaysia and Russia.

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