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Ransom reportedly dropped on seized ship

A plane is said to have taken a reported $3.2 million to the Ukraine vessel hijacked by Somalia pirates last fall. Its cargo consisted of tanks and heavy weaponry.

February 05, 2009|Associated Press

NAIROBI, KENYA — A ransom has been delivered to Somali pirates who seized a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks, heavy weapons and about 20 crew members, a spokesman for the ship's owners said Wednesday.

Mikhail Voitenko did not say how much was paid, but Russia's Itar-Tass news agency put it at $3.2 million. The pirates originally demanded $20 million.

The Faina was seized in September off Somalia.

"The ransom has been delivered to the Faina. The owners of the ship so far don't want to comment on this, but I'm getting information on this just about every half-hour," Voitenko said on Russian TV. "A pile of pirates are counting the haul on the Faina. I hope that nothing will be disrupted and the sailors will soon be able to disembark."

The hostages consist of 17 Ukrainians, two Russians and a Latvian.

Voitenko did not answer phone calls seeking further comment.

A person involved in the negotiations said a plane carrying the ransom left Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, Wednesday afternoon and dropped it on the Faina. The man spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

He said the ship could be released today. But the pirates holding the Faina had set previous dates for releasing the vessel, only to let them pass without explanation.

Last year Somalia become a piracy hot spot, with reported attacks on 111 ships, 42 of which were hijacked. It does not have a coast guard or navy because it has not had a functioning government since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

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