Pirates free ship, but still hold Saudi supertanker
Somali pirates have freed a Yemeni ship, an official said Wednesday, a day after the leader of their country's Islamist insurgency called for the immediate release of a Saudi supertanker and other vessels.world Updated: Dec 03, 2008 20:48 IST
Somali pirates have freed a Yemeni ship, an official said Wednesday, a day after the leader of their country's Islamist insurgency called for the immediate release of a Saudi supertanker and other vessels.
No ransom was paid for the release of the MV Arena, which was freed late Tuesday 10 days after it was boarded at sea by armed men, Ali Abdi Aware, deputy foreign minister of the breakaway region of Puntland, said.
"The ship has been released after week-long talks with the pirates and they agreed to free it without ransom," Aware told AFP. "The pirates who hijacked the ship came onshore last night."
The release followed a sweeping condemnation of piracy by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, the leader of Islamist insurgents fighting Ethiopian-backed government forces in the lawless Horn of Africa country.
Aweys called on Tuesday for the immediate release of a Saudi supertanker and at least a dozen other foreign ships and their crews being held by the pirates, and berated the gunmen for "undermining international peace and trade".
But there was no sign Wednesday that the cleric's call was being heeded by those holding the crude-laden Saudi supertanker Sirius Star to ransom for 25 million dollars (20 million euros).
The release of the relatively small Yemeni ship appeared incidental, given its modest cargo and the fact that the eight crew were all from the region.
"The ship was ferrying construction material from the southeastern Yemeni port of Mukalla to Socotra," a Yemeni island in the Gulf of Aden, said Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers' Assistance Programme.
"The ship is now headed to Socotra to discharge its cargo," he said.
If anything, the pirates seem bent on taking even more ships.
A NATO official said late Tuesday that an Italian warship had repelled "probably the biggest multiple, coordinated attack we've seen," after more than a dozen fast boats loaded with gunmen swarmed around a convoy of five merchant vessels in the Gulf of Aden.
The warship had to put itself between the pirate boats and their prey and used a helicopter to disperse them, with all the vessels using water hoses to help repel the pirates.
That attack followed a weekend incident in which armed men made an unsuccessful attempt to board the Miami-based cruise liner Nautica, carrying 600 people in the Gulf of Aden.
The ship managed to outrun the pirates, but not before they fired several shots.
NATO has four ships -- from Britain, Greece, Italy and Turkey -- on patrol in the waters off Somalia, with two protecting UN food aid convoys to the strife-torn Horn of Africa country.
A Russian and an Indian warship have also joined in the operations.
The UN Security Council on Tuesday expressed its support for a European anti-piracy naval mission to begin December 8.
At 330 metres (1,000 foot)-long and carrying two million barrels of crude, the Sirius Star is by far the pirates' biggest prize, along with an arms-laden Ukrainian ship, the Faina, for which they are also demanding a multi-million dollar ransom.
The leader of the gunmen who seized it, Mohamed Said, said Tuesday they were "waiting for a favourable reply from the owners" two days after a November 30 deadline had passed for the ransom payment.