Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- A negotiator for the pirates holding the Saudi supertanker “Sirius Star” off the Somali coasts has disclosed that 40 hijackers seized control of the Saudi vessel and that negotiations were continuing between them and its owners. He added that the “hijackers’ love” for Saudi Arabia because it is a Muslim country would reduce the ransom and also disclosed that the pirates received help from other countries that are providing them with information about the routes used by ships.
One of the hijackers said in a telephone contact with Asharq al-Awsat who said his name was “Jami Adam” (35 years old) and talked through an interpreter by a cell phone linked to satellites that the negotiations were continuing with the Saudi tanker’s owners and added: “The negotiations are ongoing and I am expecting easy negotiations, God willing.” He explained that no agreement had been reached yet but expected this to happen soon and said: “We (the pirates) must consult and obtain information about the vessel and to whom it belongs.” Adam went on to say that these negotiations were being held through Dubai (the headquarters of the company owing the tanker) and London (it is understood from his remarks it means the headquarters of the insurance company that provides insurance for the tanker with other insurance companies, among them a Saudi one). He stressed that they the hijackers receive the ransoms in “cash” and denied they have any [bank] accounts abroad and said: “We do not have accounts abroad. Most of us did not leave the sea in the first place.” He pointed out that they share out the sums they receive as ransom for releasing the ships and distribute part of it among the poor families in the region which were displaced after the Ethiopian invasion, as he called it. He said that the number of the tanker’s hijackers was more than 40 Somalis and around 25 are still aboard it now, adding that the hijackers were replaced by others yesterday (day before yesterday).
On the conditions of the Saudi tanker’s crew, he pointed out that they were safe and free on its deck and moving inside it, adding that they were eating from the vessel’s supplies. He mentioned that the kidnappers’ ransom demand, which he refused to specify, was not exaggerated, especially as the tanker belongs to Saudi Arabia, which, according to him, “they respect very much and love because it is a Muslim country.” He added: “We had to bear many expenses to hijack it; $ 500,000 was paid for information and expenses for the people who hijack ships.”
Though he did not set a time period for ending the negotiations with the tanker’s owners, he said that they handed back in the past 10 ships belonging to Asian countries, among them China and Japan, whose owners paid ransoms ranging between $1 million and $1.8 million and added: “Some of them paid 1 million, 1.5 million, and 800,000. There is nothing fixed. It is negotiation.” Adam disclosed that the pirates benefit from information they receive from their partners who support and provide them with information from other countries and said: “We have countries that give us information about the ships in the sea, if there are commercial ships or sailing in our way.” He added that these neighboring countries are Yemen, Eritrea, Kenya, and South Africa. Asked how they follow the ships, he said: “We have radars and know every ship’s location. We have collaborators in Kenya, Sri Lanka, Yemen, and Dubai.” He pointed out that these collaborators have nothing to do with the money “and they only provide us with the information.” Jami Adam stressed that the pirates’ partners who are present in more than one Arab, African, and Asian country raise the costs of their operating expenditures in the single hijack, adding that the cost of a hijacking might reach $500,000. He downplayed the dangers of attacks on the pirates by the war fleets of many countries in the region, among them NATO, the United States, and Russia, saying these fleets were close to them and they see them.
Talking about the American ships, he said: “They cannot watch all the sea. They have their own matters” and added that the pirates and passing Western ships exchange greetings when they are sailing close to each other.