Somali pirates holding Ukrainian ship MV Faina received ransom

18:12, 04 February 2009
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And will release the vessel within hours

Somali pirates holding the Ukrainian ship MV Faina with 33 tanks on board received a $3.2 million ransom on Wednesday and will release the vessel within hours, said a local man who helped negotiate the deal, Reuters reported.

"The pirates are still on the ship dividing the money," the man, who asked not to be named, told Reuters from the Somali port of Haradheere. "The ship will be released in coming hours."

A Kenyan-based piracy monitoring group, the East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, could not confirm the ransom payment or the imminent release of the highest-profile of a dozen ships in the hands of Somali pirates.

"That`s what we are hearing but there`s no confirmation yet," the group`s coordinator, Andrew Mwangura, told Reuters from Mombasa port.

The MV Faina was captured in September with its 20-man crew and a cargo of Soviet-era T-72 tanks plus other weapons.

Its seizure drew international attention, not only for its dramatic military cargo, but for a regional row over the destination of the tanks.

Kenya said it had bought them for its army, but foreign diplomats said the arms were bound for south Sudan -- a potential embarrassment to Nairobi, which brokered a peace pact for the region on its northwestern border.

Somali pirates have captured three boats so far in 2009, after taking a record 42 last year in the busy Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean shipping lanes. Anarchy and an Islamist insurgency onshore have fuelled the upsurge of piracy.

In an unprecedented international response, more than 20 warships from 14 nations are patrolling to try to stop the gangs. Piracy has raised insurance costs and prompted some ship owners to send their vessels on longer routes around South Africa instead of via the Suez Canal.


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