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Somali Pirates Demand $25m Ransom

Pirates who hijacked a Saudi oil tanker off the Somali coast are reported to have demanded a $25m ransom

Pirates who hijacked a Saudi oil tanker off the Somali coast are reported to have demanded a $25m ransom.

The AFP news agency, quoting one of the pirates, says the owners have been set a 10-day deadline to hand over the sum.

The Sirius Star is the biggest tanker ever hijacked, carrying a cargo of two million barrels of Saudi oil - worth more than $100m.

"We do not want long-term discussions to resolve the matter," the agency quoted Mohamed Said as saying.

"The Saudis have 10 days to comply, otherwise we will take action that could be disastrous," he added, without elaborating.

On Wednesday, Saudi officials confirmed that the ship's owners are in talks with the pirates, but Vela International, which operates the Sirius Star, has not commented about claims of negotiations.

The 25 captive crew on the Sirius Star include two British citizens, two Poles, one Croatian, one Saudi national and 19 Filipinos.

The pirates who seized the tanker on Saturday are a sophisticated group with contacts in Dubai and neighbouring countries, says the BBC Somali Service's Yusuf Garaad.

Much of their ransom money from previous hijackings has been used to buy new boats and weapons as well as develop a network across the Horn of Africa, he adds.

The International Maritime Bureau has labelled the situation as "out of control".

International anger has risen over the capture of the Star, laden with $100m of oil, which is now anchored at the Somali pirate port of Harardhere.

An Indian warship yesterday sank a Somali pirate ship after coming under fire - the most significant damage to the seafaring outlaws to date.

But the US navy warned that a military approach will not "solve the problem".

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell called for a "holistic approach from the international community at sea, ashore, with governance, with economic development".

He said, "You could have all the navies in the world having all their ships out there, you know, it's not going to ever solve this problem".

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said countries don't like to negotiate with terrorists or hijackers but the final decision rests with the owners of the ship.

"I know that the owners of the tanker, they are negotiating on the issue," he told reporters.

The company which operates the vessel, Vela International, refused to confirm or deny the claims.

Meanwhile, a ransom demand from the captors was reported by Al Jazeera, the Arabic satellite television channel.

The station broadcast an audio tape believed to be from one of the pirates.

"Negotiators are located on board the ship and on land. Once they have agreed on the ransom, it will be taken in cash to the oil tanker," said the voice, identified as Farah Abd Jameh.

Author: Jo Amey