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Indonesia FM: first time negotiating with Somali pirates

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Indonesia FM: first time negotiating with Somali pirates

2011-04-22 05:15:06 GMT+7 (ICT)

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (BNO NEWS) -- Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa on Thursday said the government had never negotiated with Somali pirates, which are currently holding hostage 22 Indonesian sailors after hijacking their ship last month.

On March 16, Somali pirates hijacked the MV Sinar Kudus vessel, belonging to PT Samudra Indonesia and took 22 Indonesian crew members hostage. The vessel was on its way to Rotterdam, the Netherlands, with a cargo of of nickel from Pomalaa, Sulawesi.

Natalegawa told Antara news agency at the University of Indonesia, that PT Samudra Indonesia had been negotiating the release of the crew members, adding that the government continued to work quickly to rescue the sailors. However, the government had never faced the amount of ransom being demanded by the pirates.

The Foreign Minister also said that the last report officials received regarding the crew members around three days ago informed that they were in good health.

Initial reports indicated that the first ransom demand was worth about $9 million, as the Somali pirates declined an offer of $2.5 million. PT Samudra Indonesia then reportedly offered $6 million before reducing it again to $3.5 million. Currently, reports say Somali pirates are asking for a $3 million ransom.

Last week, Indonesia's National Defense Forces Commander-in-Chief Djoko Suyanto said two frigates with 401 members of the Marine Corps and the Army's Special Force had been deployed to the Somali coast in a search and rescue operation for the Indonesian crew members taken hostage.

The ships have been stationed near Somalia to escort the hijacked vessel if negotiations turn out successful.

Suyanto also stated that a helicopter had been sent to check the situation and condition of the vessel, saying that the ship was spotted near the Somali coast, in the middle of dozens of other pirated ships.

In recent years, Somali pirates have hijacked hundreds of ships, taking in hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom, but hostages are usually treated well and released in healthy conditions after a ransom is paid. Ships are patrolling the shipping lanes near Somalia in an effort to reduce hijackings, but the anti-piracy force has warned that attacks are likely to continue.

According to a recent study, maritime piracy cost the global economy up to $12 billion last year, with Somalia-based pirates responsible for 95 percent of the costs.


-- © BNO News All rights reserved 2011-04-22

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