September 28, 2008
Warships surround hijacked arms ship
The U.S. 5th Fleet continues to actively monitor the situation with Motor Vessel Faina, the Belize-flagged RO/RO ship that was captured hijacked by Somali pirates Sept. 25.
San Diego-based destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83) is on station and is in visual range of MV Faina, which is anchored off the Somalia coast near the harbor city of Hobyo.
"Howard is on-station," said Cmdr. Curtis Goodnight, Howard Commanding Officer. "My crew is actively monitoring the situation, keeping constant watch on the vessel and the waters in the immediate vicinity."
Two other pirated vessels, MV Capt Stefanos and MV Centauri, are also anchored at this location.
Though the 5th Fleet release makes no mention of it, news agency reports state that Faina is under surveillance by three warships.
The agency reports also say that one crew member has died of natural causes
Ukraine's defense minister has confirmed that the Faina, which according to 5th Fleet is operated by Ukraine's Kaalbye Shipping, was carrying a cargo that included 33 T-72 tanks, ammunition and weapons that included grenade launchers.
The pirates are demanding a ransom variously reported as either $20 million or $5 million.
Defense Minister Yuri Yekhanurov said the weapons were being legally shipped to Kenya by Urkinmash, a subsidiary of UrkSpetsExport, Ukraine's state arms exports monopoly.
Kenyan government spokesman Dr. Alfred N. Mutua says the cargo in the ship includes military hardware such as tanks and an assortment of spare parts for use by different branches of the Kenyan military.
Interestingly, in February the Kenyan government seized 50 tanks in Mombasa that were reportedly destined for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.
At the time, Kenya said the shipment was in breach of the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement (SPLA).
Now Kenya's Capital Radio quotes Andrew Mwangura, coordinator of the East Africa Seafarers Assistance Program as saying the hijackers claim to be in possession of confidential documents showing that the arms aboard the Faina were actually destined for Southern Sudan.
The pirates are threatening to unleash a "damning report" unless they are paid a ransom.
Dr. Mutua, says the hijackers' claims are "alarming propaganda" and "a tactic by the terrorists to try and fend off reprisals against them."
"The Kenyan Government will not engage in answering back to terrorists who have hijacked imporatnt military equipment paid for by the Kenyan tax payer for use by the Kenyan Military," says Dr. Mutua.
In an earlier statement he said: "The Kenyan Government does not and will not negotiate with international criminals, pirates and terrorists and will endeavor to recover the hijacked ship and military cargo."