Pirates have hijacked a Panamanian-flagged ship with 18 crew, including 15 Indians, off the east coast of Africa, the latest in an increasing number of attacks, a Somali businessman said on Tuesday.
A group of Somali businessmen called the Juba General Trading Company had hired the al-Mizan to carry cargo from the United Arab Emirates to Mogadishu, said Abdirisaq Abdulkadir, the head of the consortium.
Abdulkadir said there are 15 Indians, two Pakistanis and a Somali on board. He denied media reports that the ship is carrying weapons.
"The ship was carrying 3,000 tons of general business materials," he said. "It set out from Dubai on October 24. We were expecting it on November 6 or 7 but it did not arrive."
When the consortium called the ship, he said, a pirate answered the phone and said it had been hijacked.
A man who answered a satellite phone number provided by Abdulkadir today identified himself as a pirate and said the bandits were demanding a $ 3 million ransom. The man refused to give his name for fear of arrest. He said the ship was captured 10 days ago about 60 miles off the Somali coast.
The latest capture means Somali pirates are holding 11 ships with more than 200 people being kept as hostages, including a British couple seized from their personal yacht late last month.