Militants, pirates may fight over Saudi oil tanker

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Sirius Star

Islamic militants have vowed to fight pirates holding the Saudi Arabian oil tanker Sirius Star off the Somalian coast. The militants are angered over the seizure of a 'Muslim' ship.

The tanker is anchored near Haradheere, a town controlled by the Islamists. The Sirius Star, owned by Saudi state firm Vela International Marine, has a crew of 25 from the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Croatia, Poland, and Britain. A ransom of $25 million is being sought, a quarter of the value of the vessel's cargo of oil.

"Hijacking a Muslim ship is a major crime," said militant spokesman Sheikh Abdi Rihin Isse Adow. "We strongly oppose piracy actions in our waters." Spokesman Abdirahim Isse Adow said: "We have arranged our fighters. The first step is to cut off pirates inland from those on the Saudi ship by restricting their supplies and cutting their communications."

They could have a fight on their hands, as the pirates have also been bringing in fighters in preparation for possible military attacks from various foreign navies that have arrived in the area to combat the growing threat from pirates. "I hope the owner of the tanker is wise enough and won’t allow any military option because that would be disastrous for everybody. We are here to defend the tanker if attacked," said pirate Abdiyare Moalim.

91 ships have been attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Arden since the year began, but the Sirius Star is both the largest and furthest from shore to be taken, captured some 420 nautical miles (833 kilometers) from Somalia's coast. Shipping companies have rerouted around the area.

The news is not entirely bad, however, as a Greek tanker full of refined oil was released today, complete with cargo intact and crew of 19 unharmed. The MV Genius, now headed out of the area, was captured September 26, the same day as the MV Faina was taken. The Faina remains held with a cargo of military hardware including tanks.