Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hijacked Ship’s Captain Is Dead

The Russian captain of a Ukrainian cargo ship hijacked by pirates off Somalia has died of high blood pressure, despite reports he could have been treated on a watching US ship, Russian media said. “We lost a member of the crew. The captain was seriously ill, he had an attack of high blood pressure,” fellow Russian crew member Viktor Nikolski told Pervyi Kanal television, referring to the ship’s captain Vladimir Kolobkov. The crew hoped an American ship located less than a nautical mile (two km) away could come to Kolobkov’s rescue, added Nikolski, ordered by his Somali hijackers to speak to the TV station in English. Nikolski was previously identified by French radio as the ship’s captain. Reached earlier by Radio France International, he said Kolobkov had been suffering from high blood pressure prior to his death. “He’s been put in the cold locker,” he said. “He was sick.” In one of their more daring bids after a surge of hijackings, Somali pirates boarded the MV Faina Thursday as it sailed toward Kenya with a shipment of tanks, grenade launchers and ammunition.The attackers have demanded a $20 million ransom for the vessel, its cargo and crew, despite being shadowed at sea by three warships, including an American one. Kolobkov could have been saved had he been evacuated to the US ship for treatment, the daily Russian Komsomolskaia Pravda reported on its website, citing the Ukrainian company Tomex Team that owns the Faina. “We contacted the Faina. The pirates had accepted to transfer Kolobkov... to the Americans... who gave the green light on condition that Russia made an official demand and confirmed his citizenship,” a Tomex Team official was quoted by the newspaper as saying. The US Navy said the destroyer USS Howard “is in visual range of MV Faina, which is anchored off the Somalia coast near the harbor city of Hobyo.” “My crew is actively monitoring the situation, keeping constant watch on the vessel and the waters in the immediate vicinity,” the ship’s commanding officer, Curtis Goodnight, said in a statement. There was confusion over the intended recipient of the tanks, with the US Navy claiming it was destined for Sudan while Kenya and Ukraine insisted the shipment was for Kenya.

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