SOMALI pirates who recently hijacked
an Egyptian ship have demanded a ransom payment for the vessel and
its 25 crew members, Egypt’s state news agency said last Monday.
The state news agency added that
Egypt is optimistic the crisis will end soon.
Somali gunmen hijacked the boat as
it plied the increasingly dangerous Gulf of Aden between Somalia and
The ship is the latest taken in a
series of such hijackings in a major global sea artery used by
nearly 20,000 vessels a year heading to and from the Suez Canal.
“The hijackers asked for a
monetary amount to free the ship,” state news agency MENA quoted
assistant Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs Ahmed Rizq.
“There are continuous and heavy
contacts to settle this problem in the shortest time possible,” he
added. He did not say how much money the pirates had asked for.
Somali gunmen are holding more than
10 ships for ransom at Eyl, a lawless former fishing outpost now
used by gangs.
One of those ships, an Iranian
chemical carrier called Iran Deyanat, fetched a US$200,000 payment
from its owners, but was not released as expected on Monday, a
regional maritime group said.
“It was supposed to be released,
but now they are saying the US$200,000 was for facilitation only.
“They want more money for the
ransom,” said Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan-based East African
Seafarers’ Assistance Programme.
He said the pirates were angry
because when they opened the cargo of the Iranian ship, several
Somalis died, while others lost hair and suffered skin burns.
“It must have been a very
dangerous chemical,” he said, without identifying the substance.
Hijackings have become commonplace
off Somalia, especially in waters next to the semi-autonomous
Puntland region. Pirates often treat hostages well in the
expectation of a ransom.
The owner of the Egyptian vessel
was in contact with the crew and said they were in a good condition,
MENA reported. - Reuters