Pirates: Show Us the Money
By The Associated Press
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) – Somali pirates holding a hijacked arms ship said Thursday they will not release it for less than $20 million and warned they will fight back against any commando-style rescue attempts.A half-dozen U.S. navy warships have surrounded the Ukrainian cargo ship MV Faina, which was seized last Thursday off the central coast of Somalia as it transported 33 Soviet-designed tanks and heavy weapons to a Kenyan port.”We would never reduce the ransom,” pirate spokesman Sugule Ali told the Associated Press in a satellite telephone interview from the Faina.The Somali government on Wednesday authorized foreign powers to use whatever force is necessary to free the ship from the pirates. Asked about fears that a foreign country might attack – as French commandoes have done in the past to free hijacked ships – Ali insisted his pirates will fight back.”That will never happen again,” said Ali, sounding calm and relaxed despite U.S. helicopters buzzing overhead. “Anyone who tries to attack us or deceive us will face bad repercussions.”The pirates and the shipping company have been negotiating over the $20 million ransom demand.Ali also distanced himself from a leader of Somalia’s Islamic insurgency, who reportedly said Thursday the weapons would help his cause a lot and has urged the pirates to destroy the arms ship if they are not paid.”We have nothing to do with insurgents or terrorist organizations, we only need money,” Ali said, adding that a plan was in place to release the ship and its surviving crew of 20 once the pirates had received the ransom. One crew member has died of a suspected heart attack.Moscow has sent a warship to protect the few Russian hostages on board the Faina, but it will take several more days to arrive. The Russians have used commando tactics to end several hostage situations in the past, but scores of hostages have died in those efforts.On Wednesday, at least eight European Union countries offered to form a new force to help protect the vital shipping lanes off Somalia – a move that the U.S. Navy has welcomed.
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