Pirates threaten to quit Faina deal

December 7, 2008 12:00 am
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, HOBYO, Somalia Dec 7 – Somali pirates holding the MV Faina cargo ship are now threatening to pull out of a deal for its release struck a week ago accusing the owners of stalling on a ransom payment.

A pirate spokesman on Sunday said that the armed gang holding the vessel, carrying weapons Kenya claims, are "unhappy about the delay in the ransom payment by the  Ukranian ship owners.”

The spokesman, identifying himself only as Ahmed, said by telephone from the Somali Hobyo town that the force on the ground and on the ship has agreed that if the money is not delivered on time to abandon the deal.

Elders in the area who did not wish to be named said a ransom of over Sh277m  had been agreed for the ship, carrying 33 Soviet-type battle tanks, rocket launchers and ammunition when it was seized off Somalia two months ago.

Sugule Ali, the spokesman for the group of pirates aboard the Faina, told AFP on November 30 that agreement on a ransom had been reached and it was "just a matter of time and a few technicalities" before the ship and its crew were released, which he said would occur "within four days".

The US military has overflown the hijacked vessel several times to take pictures of the crew lined up on the bridge and verify that all were in good health.

The MV Faina was anchored a few miles off the coast of Harardhere, north of Mogadishu, and had been moved several times.

The initial ransom demand in the immediate aftermath of the freighter’s capture on September 25 had been for Sh2.7b.

The Ukrainian ship was headed for Kenya when it was seized, with 17 Ukrainians, three Russians and one Latvian on board.

The capture of the ship triggered a controversy over its cargo’s final destination.

Kenya has insisted it was the intended recipient of the arms but maritime officials and diplomatic sources in the region have said the government of semi-autonomous southern Sudan was the destination.

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