Fri, Oct 03, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Islamists urge pirates to destroy ship

AFP AND AP , MOGADISHU

Somali Islamist militants yesterday urged pirates holding a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks and military hardware to destroy the cargo and the vessel if they are not paid ransom.

As US warships and other navies blockaded the MV Faina off Somalia’s Indian Ocean coast, the pirates have insisted on being paid US$20 million to release the cargo and the 21-member crew.

“If they do not get the money they are demanding, we call on them to either burn down the ship and its arms or sink it,” Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, a spokesman for the Shabab movement, said in an interview.

But Robow said his movement, which is gradually gaining ground over government troops in southern Somalia, was not linked to the pirates who seized the Belize-flagged freighter last week as it headed for Mombasa in Kenya.

“We have no contacts and links with the pirates and they are in the waters for their own interests,” he said.

Robow said the 33 Soviet-era T72 battle tanks and other military hardware on the Faina belonged to Ethiopian forces, who are propping up the embattled Somali government in Mogadishu.

On Wednesday, the Somali government said it would allow foreign powers to use force if necessary against pirates who are holding the Faina. The ship is surrounded by several US warships and helicopters. Moscow has also sent a warship to protect the few Russian hostages on board, but it will take a week to arrive off the coast of central Somalia, where the Faina has been anchored since Thursday last week.

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