Somali pirates keep Indian hostages despite ransom

AP News
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Posted: Apr 16, 2011 5:12 AM
Somali pirates keep Indian hostages despite ransom

The owners of a hijacked ship said Saturday that they were perplexed by the continuing detention of some of their crew members by Somali pirates despite their paying a multimillion-dollar ransom.

Pirates released the ship and some of the crew on Friday. But a Somali pirate told The Associated Press afterward that the Indian crew members' hostage ordeal is being prolonged in retaliation for the arrests of more than 100 Somali pirates by the Indian Navy.

However, the ship owners said Saturday that all the crew members of the Asphalt Venture were Indian _ not just the seven still being held.

All 15 crew members, held hostage after September's attack, were Indian, Sunil Puri, a New Delhi-based spokesman for Interglobal, a United Arab Emirates-based company that owns the ship, told the AP.

On Friday, Hassan Farah said pirates in stronghold of Haradhere in Somalia had taken a collective decision not to release the Indian crew members.

"We decided to keep the Indian because India is holding our colleagues," Farah said. "We released the other crew members who sailed away from our coast. We will keep these Indians until the Indians release our colleagues."

Puri called the pirates' action "unprecedented," and said that it wasn't immediately clear why the pirates acted as they did.

"We are still trying to ascertain why that happened. We kept our side of the bargain. We don't know why they weren't released. This is an unprecedented situation. In the past they have always kept their word," Puri said.

While Puri did not reveal the amount of ransom paid, pirates are receiving an average of $5 million to release ships and crew, and a ransom in that ballpark was believed to have been paid on Friday.

Friday's pirate action marks a major departure from the standard business model of release-for-ransom and could complicate international military efforts against the piracy trade.

The Indian navy has seized around 120 pirates, mostly from Somalia, over the past few months. Last month the Indian navy captured 61 pirates when they attacked a naval ship. Indian warships have been escorting merchant ships as part of international anti-piracy surveillance in the Indian Ocean area since 2008.

Commander P.V.S. Satish, a spokesman for the Indian navy, said Saturday that they were yet to receive any official details of Friday's exchange with the pirates.