09.27.08, 04:35 AM #1
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Somali Pirates Seize Ship Loaded With Tanks, Crew Held Hostage
Web site: Crew member says pirates want ransom
By STEVE GUTTERMAN – 1 hour ago
MOSCOW (AP) — Pirates who seized a ship laden with tanks off the Horn of Africa were seeking ransom and keeping most of the 35 people aboard in a single stuffy room, a man identified as the captain's aide said in a report on a Russian news Web site Saturday.
In a telephone conversation posted on the site Life.ru, the purported crew member said the ship, the Faina, had anchored close to shore near the Somalian town of Hobyo and that there were two other apparently hijacked ships nearby.
An international anti-piracy watchdog group said Saturday that armed pirates on Friday seized a Greek chemical tanker with 19 crew members in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia.
The tanker, carrying a cargo of refined petroleum from Europe to the Middle East, was ambushed, chased and fired upon, said Noel Choong, who heads the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Malaysia.
In the telephone conversation on Life.ru, the man issued what sounded like a coded call for help, repeating part of the Russian word for 'seals' twice.
The 530-foot cargo ship Faina was seized Thursday. Ukraine's defense chief said Friday that it was carrying 33 Russian-built T-72 tanks and a substantial quantity of ammunition and spare parts. Russia's navy said it dispatched a warship to the area, and U.S naval ships were monitoring the situation.
Nobody aboard the Faina was injured, but the captain, Vladimir Kolobkov, was suffering from heatstroke and his condition was "not so good," the man in the report said. He identified himself as Vladimir Nikolsky, the captain's senior assistant, and said the hijackers demanded that he speak only in English.
"They asking that we make contact with the owners about his money," Nikolsky said. Asked how much they were demanding, he said: "I'm not sure, approximately — I cannot say he exact price." He suggested the hijackers indicated that would be matter for negotiations.
"They would like to speak directly to our owner," he said later.
Ukrainian news agencies have identified the ship's operator as Tomex Team, a company based in the Black Sea port of Odessa. A person who answered the phone at the company's office on Saturday declined to comment and refused to give his name.
Kenyan Defense Department spokesman Bogita Ongeri said on Saturday that Kenyan authorities have had no contact with the pirates or received any demands for ransom.
Ongeri said that the Ukrainian vessel was seized in international waters in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. He said that the pirates hijacked the ship beyond 200 nautical miles away from the coast of the northeastern Somali region of Puntland. Two hundred nautical miles in maritime law mark the end of a country's territorial waters.
It was unclear exactly when the conversation with Nikolsky took place, and phone calls to Life.ru were not answered.
Speaking in imperfect English, Nikolsky said he had recently spoken to the captain of what he said was a U.S. Coast Guard ship, who asked about the situation aboard the Faina.
"I tell him that everything in normal condition," he said.
While Ukrainian officials had said there were 21 people aboard — 17 Ukrainian, three Russian and a Latvian — Nikolsky said there were 21 crew and a total of 35 people aboard. Life.ru showed images of Russian passports for both Nikolsky and the captain, Kolobkov.
"Everybody in normal condition. Not good, but normal," he said.
He said he was speaking from the bridge but that the rest of the crew members were all "collected in one room without free air."
At the beginning of the posted audio report, the reporter asks a person answering a call if she can speak to a Russian on board. After a few barked words in an unfamiliar language, the man identified as Nikolsky starts speaking.
He explains that he has been ordered to speak only English "so that they understand."
At the end, when the reporter asks whether he sees a way out, he replies: "You are so clever that you are understanding everything" and switches to Russian, saying "kotiki, kotiki, kotiki" — part of the word for "seals" — an apparent reference to the possibility of an operation by special amphibious forces to rescue the hostages.
Russian navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo told The Associated Press on Friday that the missile frigate Neustrashimy, or Intrepid, left the Baltic Sea port of Baltiisk a day before the hijacking to cooperate with other unspecified countries in anti-piracy efforts.
But he said the ship was then ordered directly to the Somalia coast after Thursday's attack.
It's precise mission was unclear. A spkesman for Russia's Baltic Fleet, Sergei Kuks, told the ITAR-Tass news agencuy that it was premature to say exactly what the Intrepid and its crew would do and whether they wold participate in an effort to free the hostages.
The hijacking of the Greek vessel brings the number of attacks off Somalia to 62 this year, or more than one every week. Of them, 26 ships were hijacked, and 15 remain in the hands of the pirates with 300 crew.
Associated Press writer Tom Maliti in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.
http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5i...aKSiwD93F141O0"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."George Bernard Shaw
09.29.08, 12:34 PM #2
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Oh no you di-int...
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — U.S. warships and helicopters on Monday surrounded a hijacked cargo ship loaded with Sudan-bound tanks and other arms to keep the weapons from falling "into the wrong hands," an American Navy spokesman said.
Lt. Nathan Christensen, a deputy spokesman for the U.S. Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet, said the shipment of 33 Russian-designed tanks, rifles and ammunition on the Ukrainian-operated Faina was headed for Sudan — not Kenya as previously claimed by Kenyan officials. The U.N. has imposed an embargo on arms destined for the Sudanese region of Darfur, to be observed by the government, allied paramilitary units known as the janjaweed, and the rebels.
A 5th Fleet statement said the ship was headed for the Kenyan port of Mombassa, but that "additional reports state the cargo was intended for Sudan."
The pirates who seized the ship are demanding a $20 million ransom.
The U.S. fears the armaments onboard the Ukrainian vessel may end up with al-Qaida-linked Islamic insurgents [al Shabaab] who have been fighting the shaky U.N.-backed Somali transitional government since late 2006.
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