Somali official says warship appears near Danes

AP News
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Posted: Mar 07, 2011 10:29 AM
Somali official says warship appears near Danes

A warship appeared Monday off the Somali coast near the location where seven Danish hostages are being held, but a Somali official warned that any rescue attempt could endanger the hostages.

The Danish family _ a couple and their three children _ were captured by pirates Feb. 24 in the Indian Ocean. Pirates say the Danes, including two crew members, have since been moved to Somalia's mainland.

Said Aden Ali, the mayor of the coastal village of Bandarbeyla, said a warship appeared Monday about 1.5 miles (2 kilometers) off shore. He said he feared a military might launch a rescue attempt.

"I warn against any action that could endanger the lives of the innocent hostages," he said. "Military actions should be the last resort. We're trying to solve the problem in a peaceful manner and with the help of clan elders."

Ali said the Danes are being held in a mountainous area inland called Hul Anod. Their captors, he said, only want money and will not pursue violence unless they feel threatened.

Pirates typically demand multimillion-dollar ransoms to release their hostages. The average ransom for a large shipping vessel is now near $5 million, according to piracy experts.

When a British sailing couple held by pirates for 388 days were released in November, reports indicated a ransom in the neighborhood of $1 million was paid for their release.

The Danish yacht was captured only days after pirates killed four Americans held captive on their yacht. Their boat had been surrounded by four American warships, and pirates said the four were killed because the hijackers felt threatened.

Piracy has blossomed off East Africa despite the presence of an international flotilla of warships. Somalia hasn't had a fully functioning government in two decades, the reason pirates continue to operate.

Japan's government said Monday it is considering seeking a handover of pirates captured during a thwarted Saturday attack on a Japanese tanker.

The ship company, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., said Monday the oil tanker Guanabara was not damaged and none of its 24 crewmembers were injured in Saturday's attack that was stopped by U.S. and Turkish warships.

The tanker is continuing on its trip to deliver oil from Ukraine to China.

In London, U.S. Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Johnnie Carson said Monday that those who use the seas have a role to play in preventing pirate attacks.

"Is it responsible for yachters to come by the dozen through an area where pirates are operating like this and create a danger for themselves?" Carson said. "We know the characteristics of what the pirates are looking for. They are looking for vehicles that are moving slowly, that are low slung to the water and traditionally for vehicles that are fairly close to the land."

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Associated Press writers Meera Selva in London and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.