Somali pirates hijack Yemeni ship

Somali pirates have hijacked a Yemen cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden, a regional maritime official said on Tuesday.

Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the Kenya-based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, identified the Yemeni vessel as the MV Amani. No other details were immediately available.

Word of the latest attack at sea came 10 days after gunmen from Somalia seized a Saudi supertanker in the largest hijacking in maritime history.

The November 15 capture of the Sirius Star — with $100-million of oil and 25 crew members from Britain, Poland, Croatia, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines — focused world attention on rampant piracy off the failed Horn of Africa state.

Scores of attacks this year have brought millions of dollars of ransom payments, hiked up shipping insurance costs, sent foreign navies rushing to the area, and left about a dozen boats with more than 200 hostages still in pirates’ hands.

Following the hijack of an Iranian-chartered ship last week, Iran’s deputy transport minister was quoted as saying Tehran could use force if necessary against pirates.

”Iran’s view is that such issues should be confronted strongly,” Deputy Transport Minister Ali Taheri was quoted as saying by the Ebtekar daily.

The pirate gang had originally been quoted as wanting $25-million to release the Sirius Star, which was captured far from Somali waters about 450 nautical miles southeast of Kenya.

But Islamist spokesperson Abdirahim Isse Adow, whose men are in the Haradheere area where the ship is being held offshore, said the demand went down. ”Middlemen have given a $15-million ransom figure for the Saudi ship. That is the issue now,” he said.

Mwangura said his sources were confirming a reduced $15-million demand.

However, a pirate on board the ship told the BBC by telephone that ”no company” had yet made contact with the hijackers, only people claiming to be intermediaries.

”These are people who cannot be trusted. We don’t want to make contact with anyone who we can’t trust,” said the pirate, who called himself Daybad.

”We captured the ship for ransom, of course, but we don’t have anybody reliable to talk to directly about it.”

He said that once real negotiations began they would seek ”the usual asking price”, but denied reports that they had been asking for a ransom of up to $25 million.

”That doesn’t exist, there is nothing of the sort and we are warning radio stations and other people about broadcasting these unreliable stories,” he said. — Reuters

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