Somali pirates demand South Korea release fellow pirates; pay ransoms

1624

Somali pirates are demanding that South Korea release five pirates it captured during a rescue mission in January, and pay ransom for four South Koreans and 21 others they are holding aboard a hijacked freighter.

Hassan Abdi, one of the pirates holding the crew of the MV Gemini, told the Associated Press that his groups is seeking compensation for eight pirates killed during the January raid by South Korean commandos that freed the Samho Jewelry, releasing 21 hostages.

Abdi added that they want the release of the five pirates captured during the raid and being held in South Korea.
“First, we want the South Korean government to change its foolish treatment of us and come with a better approach toward us,” he said in a statement read to the Associated Press.
“Second, we want compensation from them because they killed our brothers and they also have to release others in their jails. After that we may reconsider holding their nationals in our hands,” he said.

The Singapore-registered MV Gemini was hijacked on April 30 off the Kenyan coast.

The Yonhap news agency quoted a South Korean government official as saying that the government would not negotiate with the pirates. “It is out of question to hold negotiations with pirates, and we cannot release the pirates being tried,” the official said on condition of anonymity. “It is the Singaporean firm that should hold the negotiations. Our government will deal sternly with this case based on principles.”

It is not clear if paying a ransom to the pirates would in any case free the four South Koreans being held hostage, as in the past, Somali pirates have refused to release captured Indian seafarers even after a ransom was paid due to the fact that India was holding a large number of pirates.

Pirate attacks are on the increase, especially off Somalia in the Horn of Africa. A report released by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) last week revealed that attacks on the world’s shipping rose by a third in the first half of this year and became increasingly violent.

Despite the increase of attacks successful hijackings were down, in large part due to massive patrolling by naval fleets, the IMB said.
“In the last six months, Somali pirates attacked more vessels than ever before and they’re taking higher risks,” IMB director Pottengal Mukundan said in a statement.
“This June, for the first time, pirates fired on ships in rough seas in the Indian Ocean during the monsoon season. In the past, they would have stayed away in such difficult conditions.”

Worldwide attacks rose to 266 in the first six months of this year compared with 196 in the same period last year.

More than 60 % of attacks were by Somali pirates, who took 361 sailors hostage and kidnapped 13 this year. Worldwide, 495 seafarers were taken hostage. Pirates killed seven people and injured 39. Ninety-nine vessels were boarded, 76 fired upon and 62 thwarted attacks were reported. As of 30 June, Somali pirates were holding 20 vessels and 420 crewmembers, and demanding ransoms of millions of dollars for their release.