Somali pirates want USD 4 million for Spanish trawler

14th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

The money demanded is payment for illegal fishing in Somalia, says pirate.

Mogadishu – Somali pirates holding a Spanish tuna trawler for the past 12 days on Wednesday demanded USD 4 million (EUR 2.8 million) for the release of the ship and its 36-member crew, one of the pirates told AFP.

The pirates also demanded, as a pre-condition of any deal, the release of two colleagues who are in Spanish custody, a pirate told AFP by phone from coastal Harardhere village, off which the Spanish trawler, the Alakrana, is anchored.

Harardhere is considered to be the second-biggest base of operations for Somali pirates after the port of Eyl.

"We also demand USD 4 million as a payment for illegally fishing in Somalia. After that we will release the fishing boat. Unless those conditions are met we will not make any deal," said Abdi Yare, a 30-year-old pirate.

"The amount of fish they have stolen from Somalia is more than the amount of the ransom we have demanded," he added.

Two pirates held in Spanish custody were captured by the Spanish navy after they left the Alakrana on a smaller boat.

They arrived Monday in Spain where prosecutors want to try them for their role in the 2 October hijacking.

The 100-metre (358-foot) Alakrana was seized in the high seas between Somalia and the Seychelles as calmer waters at the end of the monsoon season made vessels more vulnerable to attacks.

The vessel, whose 36 crew members comprise nationals of Spain, Ghana, Indonesia, Madagascar, Senegal and the Seychelles, was far from a zone protected by the Spanish military at the time of the attack, Spanish officials said.

Spanish fleet owners have requested to have marines stationed on board their fishing vessels, arguing that French vessels have since July had marines on board.

Spain's defence ministry has said Spain cannot station its marines on fishing trawlers, as France is doing, because Spanish law does not allow the military to be used for protecting private property.

In September, Madrid allowed private security firms which protect Spanish fishing boats from Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean to use long-range weapons.

After the seizure of the Alakrana, an official with Ecoterra International, an environmental group that also monitors piracy, said they were probing whether it was a case of illegal fishing or just an act of piracy.

The latest hijacking brings to at least five the number of vessels in the hands of Somali pirates. The others include a Taiwanese fishing vessel and Ukrainian, German and Turkish freighters.

According to Ecoterra International, at least 163 attacks have been carried out by Somali pirates since the start of 2009 alone, 47 of them successful hijackings.

In 2008, more than 130 merchant ships were attacked, an increase of more than 200 percent on 2007, according to the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

AFP / Expatica

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