NAIROBI (Reuters) – Somali pirates demanded a $35 million ransom on Saturday for a Ukrainian ship they had seized which was carrying 33 tanks and other military supplies to Kenya, a maritime official said.
“The gunmen are demanding $35 million to release the MV Faina and her crew,” said Andrew Mwangura of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme.
Kenya’s military said they had not yet made contact with the Somali pirates holding the ship, local media reported.
The 21 crew members aboard the ship include 17 Ukrainians, Russians and Latvians.
Mwangura said pirates had released a Malaysian chemical tanker, Bunga Melati 5, on Saturday after a $2 million ransom was paid.
“The ransom was delivered by Malaysian navy who were in the area,” he said. A Japanese ship was released late on Friday.
Pirates have captured more than 30 vessels off Somalia this year, making its waters the most dangerous in the world and threatening a globally important shipping lane between Europe and Asia. The gangs seek, and often receive, large ransoms.
The Ukrainian ship, sailing under a Belize flag, is carrying 33 T-72 tanks as well as grenade launchers and ammunition bound for Kenya.
The haul is a significant seizure in Somalia, where Islamist insurgents have been fighting the government and its Ethiopian military ally for nearly two years.
Kenyan media reported that the pirates had warned against any rescue attempts.
Russia’s navy said it had sent a warship to Somalia’s Indian Ocean coast to conduct regular anti-piracy patrols in the area.