Pirates claim seized arms not for Kenya

September 28, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, September 28 – Somali pirates who seized a Ukrainian cargo vessel carrying military equipment now allege the arsenal was not destined for Kenya’s military.

Andrew Mwangura of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, which monitors the activities of pirates, said the hijackers claim to be in possession of confidential documents showing that the arms were actually destined for Southern Sudan.

The pirates who are demanding a staggering Sh2.6 billion ransom are threatening to unleash what they term a ‘damning report’ on the actual movement of the arms in the region.

“They say if they are not going to be paid the ransom, they will spill the beans. May be they are going to say what is happening in this region because we understand Sudan is under a United Nations arms embargo. So how come Kenya allows Sudan military equipment to pass through Kenyan waters?” he told Capital News in an interview.

When reached for comment, Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua who had earlier admitted the consignment was destined for Kenya described the report as peculiar.

“That is strange, I will get back to you later,” he said.

Mwangura alleged that the hijacked ship-MV Faina was ferrying the third such consignment from Ukranian to Southern Sudan.

He said the vessel carrying 33 T-72 assorted tankers and huge quantities of ammunitions, grenade launchers and firearms was expected to dock at the port of Mombasa on Saturday morning.

On Saturday night, the ship was spotted at the high seas, about 94 nautical miles away from Hobyo in Somalia, which is under the control of Islamist fighters.

“And we are expecting it to move closer to Hobyo in deep waters because this is a big ship that cannot move to shallow waters,” Mwangura said.

Latest reports indicate that a United States warship and Russian missile frigate, Neustrashimy were tracking the hijacked vessel, which is also being closely monitored by Kenya Navy personnel.

A statement posted on the Government Spokesman’s website stated the government was not willing to negotiate with international criminals in paying any form of ransom.

“The government does not and will not negotiate with international criminals, pirates and terrorists. We will endeavour to recover the hijacked ship and military cargo,” he said.

There were reports that at least 100 pirates from the dreaded Somalia Youth Coast Guard were in control of the Faina, which is sailing under a Belize flag.

It was seized on Thursday when the heavily armed bandits in three speedboats struck about 200 miles off the Somalia coast.

The ship’s captain is said to have contacted a merchant marine call centre where he described the pirates before communication was cut off.


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