Monday, September 29, 2008

$20M Somali ransom demand for ship; 1 crewman dies

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — As a heavily armed U.S. destroyer patrolled nearby and planes flew overhead Sunday, a Somali pirate spokesman told The Associated Press his group was demanding a $20 million ransom to release a cargo ship loaded with Russian tanks.

The spokesman also warned that the pirates would fight to the death if any country tried military action to regain the ship, and a man who said he was the ship's captain reported that one crew member had died.

Pirates seized the Ukrainian-operated ship Faina off the coast of Somalia on Thursday as it headed to Kenya carrying 33 Russian-built T-72 tanks and a substantial amount of ammunition and spare parts. The ordnance was ordered by the Kenyan government.

The guided missile destroyer USS Howard was stationed off the Somali coast on Sunday, making sure that the pirates did not remove the tanks, ammunition and other heavy weapons from the ship, which was anchored off the coast.

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