Confusion Over 'Release' Of Greek Ship

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Somali pirates holding a Greek cargo ship Friday accused its owners of constantly changing their minds on deals reached to free the vessel captured more than six months ago.

MV Ariana

On Thursday, the pirates said they had freed the ship with its 24 Ukrainian sailors after receiving 3.7 million dollars, but the director of the Athens-based All Ocean Shipping company denied the report as a lie.

"The owners of Ariana are not dealing with us in good faith. They are changing their minds from time to time contrary to the agreements made with them," Abdu Farah, a member of the gang holding the ship, told AFP.

The shipping company's director Spyros Minas said no ransom was paid and if the MV Ariana had been freed "we would have been told by the captain."

He added that his company was ready for talks to free the ship and its crew.

"The pirates have demanded a lot of money. We are ready to negotiate but on the condition we have balanced mediators," he said.

Ukraine's foreign ministry also said it could not confirm that the ship had been freed, but a spokesman added that "all can change very quickly."

Hashi Ahmed, another pirate gang member, also said the ship owners keep changing goal posts.

"We thought the matter was over and everybody was happy when the deal was made, but the situation is changing every time because of the Ariana's owners who don't want to deal with us honestly," he told AFP.

The pirates said they were to take 3.5 million dollars of the total ransom and give Somali mediators the remaining amount.

The Maltese-flagged MV Ariana was seized north of Madagascar on May 2 while on its way to the Middle East from Brazil. It was carrying 10,000 tonnes of soya beans.

Source: AFP