Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Less than 24 hours after the Somali hijackers holding the Saudi oil tanker “Sirius Star” demanded $15 million to release it, the ongoing negotiations between them and the notables and elders of “Haradhere” town tribes yesterday resulted in an announcement of a reduction of the ransom they are demanding from the company owning the tanker to $12 million. An informed source participating in the negotiations told Asharq Al-Awsat in a telephone contact that the tanker’s incident would end within three or four days at most, adding that though they demanded $12 million, “it became clear during the dialogue that they might accept an amount of between $6 and $7 million.” The source pointed out that they learned during the talks how the tanker was hijacked. The operation was carried out between the ports of “Kismayu” and “Brava” south of Somalia, in a site not far from the capital Mogadishu. On the conditions of the tanker’s crew, the source said: “We were assured about the crew and those we negotiated with stressed to us that they were in good health.” It added that the tanker was clear to see in Haradhere port during the first three days of the hijack but then disappeared from view to some place that is known only to its hijackers. Asharq Al-Awsat learned that the negotiations were continuing between the tribal notables and elders and the hijackers’ representatives.
On his part, Dr. Nabil Khalaf Ashur, the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ ambassador to Kenya, underlined his country’s rejection of dialogue and refusal o meet the hijackers demands and said: “We continue and will continue to reject the principle of bargaining.” He described the tanker’s hijackers “as having no religion, conscience, and principles” and said instatements to Asharq Al-Awsat: Somalia’s cities and areas, including the town of “Haradhere” where the hijackers are hiding, demonstrated after the dawn’s prayers yesterday to denounce the piracy which targeted the tanker. He said: “We are confident that the tribal elders are capable of persuading these persons to back down on their demands and release the tanker because Somali society is a tribal one ruled by traditions and anyone who rejects these is ostracized.” When asked if the hijackers took a goodwill initiative by releasing the crew, he answered: “We did not and will not promise them anything. The kingdom has its positive stands toward Somalia and its people and their behavior will not affect this at all.”