Somali Pirates Threaten To Pull Out Of Ukraine Ship Deal

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Somali pirates holding an arms-laden Ukrainian cargo ship Sunday accused the owners of stalling on a ransom payment and threatened to pull out of a deal for its release struck a week ago.

Ukrainian cargo ship MV Faina.

A pirate spokesman told AFP that the armed gang holding the Faina was "unhappy about the delay in the ransom payment."

"The ship's owners are taking too long to hand over the money," the spokesman, identifying himself only as Ahmed, said by telephone.

"There have been consultations between the force on the ground and on the ship and everyone agreed that if the money is not delivered on time to abandon the agreement," he added.

Elders in the area who didn't wish to be named said a ransom of $3.5 million 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 Nov. 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 U.S. 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 Sept. 25 had been for $35 million.

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 semiautonomous southern Sudan was the destination.

Source: AFP