Somali pirates keep Indian hostages after ransom

Last Updated: Saturday, April 16, 2011 - 00:32

Mogadishu: In a move that could
change the pirate-hostage equation, Somali pirates on Friday took
in a multimillion dollar ransom, then released the ship and
some of the crew but kept all the Indian crew members as
hostages.

A pirate told The Associated Press the Indian crew
members` hostage ordeal is being prolonged in retaliation for
the arrests of more than 100 Somali pirates by the Indian
Navy.

"We decided to keep the Indian because India is holding
our colleagues," the pirate, Hassan Farah, said. "We released
the other crew members who sailed away from our coast. We will
keep these Indians until the Indians release our colleagues."

Farah said the pirates in the stronghold of Harad here
have taken that collective decision. The Indian hostages are
to be moved to land.

A multimillion dollar ransom was paid for the ship
Asphalt Venture, whose ownership is located in Mumbai, India.

Pirates are receiving an average of USD 5 million to
release ships and crew, and a ransom in that ballpark was
believed to have been paid on Friday.

It wasn`t immediately clear how many of the 15 crew
members aboard the Asphalt Venture were Indian. The ship was
hijacked in late September.

Today`s pirate action marks a major departure from the
standard pirate business model of release-for-ransom and could
complicate international military efforts against the piracy
trade.

Earlier this year pirates killed four American hostages
while US Navy warships were shadowing the hijacked yacht, the
first time pirates had done that.

Overall, analysts say pirates are becoming increasingly
aggressive, violent and hostile.

The Indian navy has seized around 120 pirates, mostly
from Somalia, over the past few months. Last month the Indian
navy captured 61 pirates when they attacked a naval ship.

Indian warships have been escorting merchant ships as part of
international anti-piracy surveillance in the Indian Ocean
area since 2008.

Piracy has long plagued the shipping industry off East
Africa, but violence has escalated in recent months. Pirates
held some 30 ships and more than 600 hostages.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, April 16, 2011 - 00:32

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