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Crewman confirmed dead

PARIS, September 29 – One of the European crew on board a Ukrainian cargo ship hijacked by Somali pirates has died of an illness, his captain said Monday, in a telephone interview from the vessel.

Viktor Nikolski said the crewman had been suffering from high blood pressure prior to his death. "We have 21 members of crew on board, one of them dead. He’s been put in the cold locker. He was sick," he said.

The pirates had announced the death of one of the sailors on Sunday — without saying which of the 17 Ukrainians, three Russians or one Lithuanian on board it was — but this had not been independently confirmed.

The MV Faina was boarded on Thursday by Somali pirates as it sailed towards Kenya with a shipment of tanks, grenade launchers and ammunition.

The attackers have demanded a 20-million-dollar (13.7-million-euro) ransom for the vessel, its cargo and crew, despite being shadowed at sea by three warships.

"Alongside my ship, at one nautical mile, there are warships observing us," Captain Nikolski said, in the interview with Radio France Internationale.

The United States has confirmed that one of its warships is in the flotilla monitoring the hijacked Faina, and Moscow has announced that it is sending a naval vessel to the region.

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