Mogadishu: At least four people were killed overnight during intense fighting between rival Somali pirates in the town of Harardhere arguing over a record ransom, elders and pirates said Tuesday.
The tension has been high in the central Somali pirate lair ever since an estimated seven million dollars were dropped by a small plane for the release of the VLCC Maran Centaurus, a Greek-flagged supertanker a third of a kilometre long and carrying two million barrels of crude oil.
"The situation is calm this morning but there is still tension between the pirates. Three of them, including a senior pirate leader, were killed so far and three others were injured," local elder Moalim Abdalla Hasan said to a news agency.
"We are trying to mediate between them because they are disturbing our peace. A civilian was killed in the crossfire and the residents are very concerned about this feud," he added.
Hasan Nile, a local grocer who said he could not open his shop on Tuesday because of the security situation in Harardhere, said the pirate vendetta involved vehicles and heavy weapons. Related article: The ransom risk of Somalian pirates
"I think there will not be trust between them any more since they killed each other. Three pirates have died already since yesterday and if there's no swift mediation, more will die, including civilians," Nile said.
According to other sources in Harardhere, two pirates died when a dispute flared on Sunday, immediately after the Maran Centaurus' ransom was delivered.
Somalia's pirates treat every successful hijacking like a private venture in which businessmen from all over the country can invest by offering financial or material assistance, buying and selling shares. Related article: Piracy money draws Somali youth
The bigger the captured vessel, the more complex the shareholder structure. Squabbling over a ransom is not uncommon but Monday night's clashes are some of the most violent recorded in Somalia's otherwise relatively united piratehood.
The operators of the Maran Centaurus, the second largest vessel ever captured by pirates, confirmed the supertanker and its crew of 28 were freed on Monday and were heading for the South African port of Durban.
First Published: Tuesday, January 19, 2010, 11:47