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Malkhadir M Muhumed
04 Jun 2007 11:22
Somali pirates who have been holding a Taiwan-flagged fishing vessel since mid-May killed one of the 16 crew members because the ship’s owners have not paid a ransom, a maritime official said on Monday.
The pirates threatened to kill other crew members if their demands are not met, said Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers’ Assistance Programme.
He cited a relative of one of the captives, who was allowed to call his family.
“The gunmen have established contact with the owner of the ship but it appears that he was giving them empty promises,” Mwangura said.
The ship—Ching Fong Hwa 168—had two Taiwanese and 12 Chinese crew members on board when it was hijacked 220km north-east of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Mwangura did not know the nationality of the victim.
Somalia does not have a coast guard or navy after more than a decade of anarchy.
The current government was formed in 2004 but has struggled to assert any real control throughout the country.
Somali pirates are trained fighters, often dressed in military fatigues, using speedboats equipped with satellite phones and global positioning system equipment.
On Saturday, the owner of a Danish cargo ship with five crew said his vessel had been hijacked off Somalia’s coast. Jorgen Folmer, a spokesperson for Danish shipping company H Folmer and Company, said a French naval vessel in the area had confirmed the ship was hijacked but was unable to intervene because it could not enter Somali waters.
Although piracy is rampant off Somalia’s lawless coast, killing crew members is relatively rare, Mwangura said. He said pirates have killed four crew members in the past 10 years.
“Normally they don’t kill crew members if they cooperate,” he said.
Since February, pirates have hijacked 10 ships—five have been released and five are still being held, according to the Seafarers Assistance’ Programme.—Sapa-AP
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