Somali pirates up demands and hostage talks stall

The imminent release of 24 hostages on board a German ship hijacked off Somalia in April has been delayed after pirates demanded a higher ransom, a gang member said yesterday.
The German-flagged container vessel Hansa Stavanger with five Germans, three Russians, two Ukrainians and 14 Filipinos had been expected to be released earlier this week.
The pirates had agreed to a $3 million (R23 million) ransom, but some members of the gang said that was too little, a pirate named Hassan told Reuters.
“Some of our friends say we are many and so the Germans must add $1 million (R7 million) or $500,000 to make the ransom about $4 million (R31 million),” he told Reuters by phone from Haradheere, about 17 km (10 miles) west of Gan, where the ship is being held.
“The Germans seemed to be angry after we broke the promise. They rarely answer our calls. Now they insist on the agreed $3 million, but we are divided on this issue. We do not know how long it will take to release the ship,” he said.
The 20 000 tonne ship, owned by Hamburg shipping company Leonhardt & Blumberg, was captured about 400 miles off the southern Somali port of Kismayu on April 4.
The vessel’s owners refused to comment.
“We don’t give any statements on the Hansa Stavanger,” said a company spokesperson who did not give her name.
Ahmed, a member of the Somali gang, had earlier told Reuters that colleagues and friends had gathered at Gan, a coastal village about 450 km (280 miles) northeast of Mogadishu, to wait for the ransom money.
But talks stalled after the pirates increased their demands.
Concerns were raised over the crew’s welfare this month after reports surfaced in the German media that they had run out of water, food and medicine.
Naval forces in the area are ready to provide escort to any hijacked ship that is released and the EU naval force Atalanta has a warship on standby to provide support should any vessel has been freed.

Pic: Somali pirates