GAROWE, Somalia Feb 5 (Garowe Online) -
Somali pirates who seized a Ukrainian vessel with controversial cargo in September have released the ship after cashing in a ransom payment, three days after a pirate kingpin was killed in Puntland, Radio Garowe reports.
The MV Faina was being held hostage off the coast of central Somalia for more than four months, making it the longest period of time a ship has been held hostage by the pirates.
A source close the ship's owners said a US$3.2 million ransom payment was given to the pirates, who had previously demanded a whopping US$25 million ransom payment when they first seized the ship.
A pirate source in the coastal town of Harardhere, central Somalia, told Radio Garowe that most armed men have gotten off the MV Faina and that the remaining few pirates would get off later Wednesday.
The MV Faina's cargo, which includes 33 Soviet-era tanks, has been the source of diplomatic and media speculation after Kenyan authorities announced that the ship was destined for the Kenyan port of Mombassa.
But other reports said the ship was ultimately destined for South Sudan, a semi-independent territory preparing for independence from Khartoum.
One of the most notorious pirates in Somalia was killed Monday in Garowe, the capital of Puntland, a self-governing region in northeastern Somalia.
Bi'ir Abdi, described as a pirate master, was killed alongside a fellow pirate named Khame Mohamud Arale after two gunmen opened fire on their vehicle, officials said.
Garowe police commander Ahmed Dheere told Radio Garowe that the suspected killers were apprehended moments after the fatal shooting.
Abdulkadir Osman "Food-Adde," Garowe's city mayor, congratulated the local police force for capturing the killers, who are being kept under police protection to prevent possible retaliation.
Some reports said the group of pirates disagreed over financial shares, forcing one group to prepare a sneak attack on the other.
Pirate gangs have turned against each other several times in recent months, but this marks the first time a well-known pirate was killed.
Inside sources said the late Bi'ir was involved in numerous ship hijackings ever since pirate attacks surged in 2007.
Puntland's new president, Dr. Abdirahman Mohamed "Farole," has pledged that his government's top priorities include improving security and fighting piracy.
Source: Garowe Online