Somali pirates agree to release Egyptian ship with fertiliser cargo and 28 crew
Friday, February 6, 2009
The Blue Star was captured on January 1 near Bab al-Mandabm whilst transporting 6,000 tonnes of urea for use as fertiliser. The ship is Egyptian-owned with an Egyptian crew, and sails under the flag of Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Details of the release deal are unclear. The International Herald Tribune quotes owner Abdel Rahman Awwa as saying that he expected a release "within hours", while the Melbourne Herald Sun named him as Abderrahman el-Awwa and quoted him as saying he did not expect the vessel to be freed "before four days." The Herald Tribune attributes their story to Reuters, while the Herald Sun cites the Agence France-Presse as the author of their article.
IHT also says that the ransom figure is unknown, but reports that sources within the company that owns the Blue Star as giving a figure over US$3 million. The Herald Sun again disagrees, saying Awwa told reporters that "We have reached an agreement [with the pirates] for a million dollar ransom." The Sun cites Awwa as giving the reason for delays as waiting for the pirates to select a secure location to receive their money.
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The Egyptian crew also expect to be released soon, according to contact with their families. Engineer Ibrahim Otman reported improved treatment received from his captors, including increased food and permission to walk on the ship's deck.