‘Ransom paid to Somali pirates’
Athens, December 10, 2009
The owners of a Greek ship held by Somali pirates for more than six months said the company had paid a ransom to the gunmen holding it and were now waiting for the Maltese-flagged Ariana to be freed.
Pirates from Somalia have made tens of millions of dollars in ransoms, seizing commercial shipping in the Indian Ocean and strategic Gulf of Aden, which links Europe to Asia.
A multinational naval deployment in the area seems only to have driven them to hunt further from shore.
'We've paid the ransom and we are waiting for the pirates to release the Ariana,' Spyros Minas, head of Alloceans shipping told Reuters, declining to disclose the amount of ransom paid.
The Ariana and its 24 Ukrainian crew were seized on May 2 north of Madagascar en route to the Middle East from Brazil.
Earlier on Thursday, a pirate source told Reuters that a helicopter had dropped $2.6 million onto its deck.
'We have taken a $2.6 million ransom to release the Greek ship,' one of the gang, Farah, said by telephone. 'We are now dividing the money and will disembark in the afternoon.'
Anti-piracy operations by the European Union, NATO and several individual states have failed to deter the pirates, who are still holding 11 ships along with 283 crew.
In the latest hijacking, pirates seized the Pakistani-flagged fishing vessel MV Shahbaig on Sunday, the EU naval force said in a statement on Wednesday.
It was thought to have 29 Pakistani sailors on board when it was attacked 320 miles east of Socotra, an island off the Horn of Africa, the EU Navfor force said. – Reuters