28 Sep 2008

Ethiopia fears further unrest following Somali pirate haul

7:04 am on 28 September 2008

The Ethiopian Prime Minister fears the seizure by Somali pirates of a Ukrainian ship carrying military supplies will be used to further destabilize the region.

Meles Zenawi says the piracy in the area is related to the instability in Somalia.

The pirates have demanded a $US35 million ransom for the Ukrainian ship, which was carrying 33 tanks, grenade launchers, ammunition and other military supplies destined for Kenya.

The cargo was a significant seizure in Somalia, where Islamist insurgents have been fighting the government and its Ethiopian military ally for nearly two years.

Somalia has not had a functioning government for 17 years, and the insurgency in the south has made it difficult for the struggling interim government to police the waters.

Russia has sent a warship to the the seas off Somalia to protect Russian ships and citizens.

The Faina, with a crew of 21, was hijacked on Friday as it neared the Kenyan port of Mombasa with a cargo of T-72 battle tanks, grenade launchers, ammunition and spares for the Kenyan military.

In recent months, a multinational taskforce based in Djibouti has been patrolling parts of the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, where a pirate mothership is believed to be operating.

Pirates have captured more than 30 vessels off Somalia this year, threatening a globally important shipping lane between Europe and Asia.

The gangs seek, and often receive, large ransoms.