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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: 1°C
AP Photo/ Dutch Defense Ministry/HO File photo taken 3 April 2011 of Dutch forces approaching a pirate vessel off the coast of Somalia.

Somali pirates take multi-million dollar ransom - but keep hostages

Pirate group deviates from own practice of ransom-then-release in retaliation for the Indian navy’s arrest of over 100 pirates.

IN A MOVE THAT COULD change the pirate-hostage equation, Somali pirates today took in a multi-million dollar ransom, then released the ship and some of the crew, but kept all the Indian crew members as hostages.

A pirate told the AP the Indian crew members’ hostage ordeal is being prolonged in retaliation for the arrests of more than 100 Somali pirates by the Indian Navy.

“We decided to keep the Indians because India is holding our colleagues,” the pirate, Hassan 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.”

Farah said the pirates in the stronghold of Haradhere have taken that collective decision. The Indian hostages are to be moved to land.

A multi-million dollar ransom was paid for the ship Asphalt Venture, whose ownership is located in Mumbai, India. Pirates are receiving an average of $5m (€3.46m) to release ships and crew, and a ransom in that ballpark was believed to have been paid today.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many of the 15 crew members aboard the Asphalt Venture were Indian. The ship was hijacked in late September.

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

Earlier this year pirates killed four American hostages while US Navy warships were shadowing the hijacked yacht, the first time pirates had done that.

Overall, analysts say pirates are becoming increasingly aggressive, violent and hostile.

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.

Piracy has long plagued the shipping industry off East Africa, but violence has escalated in recent months. Pirates held some 30 ships and more than 600 hostages.

- AP