Friday, October 24, 2008

Pirates attack ship in Kenyan waters

The pirated merchant ship MV Faina is seen from a U.S. Navy guided-missile cruiser on Monday. Somali pirates holding a Ukrainian ship carrying 33 tanks reiterated their demands for a $20 million ransom on Tuesday and denied three of their number had died in a shootout. Photo/REUTERS

The pirated merchant ship MV Faina as seen from a U.S. Navy guided-missile cruiser. Somali pirates holding the ship have threatened to kill hostages and set the ship on fire if the ransom is not paid in 24 hours and if they are attacked. Photo/REUTERS 

By NATION Team and AGENCIES

A Singapore registered ship, the Kota Hening, was attacked by suspected Somali pirates on Thursday night in Kenya’s territorial waters, 180 nautical miles from Mombasa port.

The ship, owned by ASL Shipping PTE and managed by Anglo-Eastern Ltd of UK, had 330 containers on board.

Several shots

“We received a distress call and alerted the security agencies,” port harbour master Captain Twalib Khamis said.

He said armed pirates in three speed boats surrounded the ship and fired several shots but did not cause much damage.

The ship, with 22 crew members — four Indians and 18 Indonesians — arrived safely at Mombasa port at 10am.

Maritime sources told the Nation that the 8pm attack raised questions over the Kenya Navy’s effectiveness in safeguarding the country’s territorial waters as this was the second time a ship had been attacked in Kenyan waters in the past week.

The sources, who declined to name the ship, said the earlier attack, though unsuccessful, took place near Lamu.

Meanwhile, Somali pirates holding the mv Faina have threatened to kill their hostages and set the ship on fire if the ransom is not paid in 24 hours and if they are attacked.

The Ukrainian-owned ship was seized a month ago.

The sea bandits scaled down their ransom from US$35 million to US$20 million and finally US$8 million but have failed to strike a deal with the ship owners.

The frustrated pirates told a Ukrainian newspaper that they had run out of food.

A spokesman for the ship owners confirmed that the more than 50 pirates and 20-man crew had run out of supplies. There are reports that the ship is also running out of fuel.

Surrounded

The Mv Faina, carrying 33 Russian-made T-72 tanks, rocket launchers and ammunition is now surrounded by a Russian warship, six US warships and helicopters and NATO warships.

The Government says the military hardware belongs to Kenya but sources say it was destined for Southern Sudan.

Meanwhile, the French navy patrolling the treacherous waters on Wednesday arrested nine suspected pirates and handed them over to Puntland administration.

Reported by Gitonga Marete, Githua Kihara and Dominic Wabala

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