Pirates Threaten to Kill Crew

Hijackers threaten to kill crew on Ukrainian arms ship.

NATO forces moved in closer and are putting pressure on the pirates aboard the MV FAINA, who are now threatening to kill the crew. They have held the ship since September 25, 2008.

Meanwhile, the French Navy captured nine pirates carrying assault rifles and grenade-launchers in their small boat 115 miles off the coast. The French handed them over to Somali officials. Although, Somalia has had no central government since 1991, French officials were assured that the prisoners would be treated according to international conventions.

Meanwhile, a number of NATO warships, including a Russian warship, are expected to arrive in the next few days and join U.S. Navy ships, which are already surrounding the hijacked Ukrainian ship, FAINA. The ship is transporting 33 tanks and heavy weaponry and was heading to a Kenyan port when it was attacked and hijacked with its 20-man crew. U.S. warships have been hovering near the vessels for weeks to ensure military cargoes do not end up in the hands of al-Qaida linked insurgent groups.

A spokesperson for the pirates warned if NATO forces attacked they would fight until death and kill the crew. He also said food and water supplies are running low, but the pirates are sharing the provisions with the crew. But, they holding firm about keeping the ship until the ransom is received. However, Tomex Team, the owner of the FAINA, says it has only been able to gather about $1 million of the $20 million demanded ransom.

The International Maritime Bureau has called for critical international action in response to the 75% surge of pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia this year. They have pressed for navies around the world to take pre-emptive measures by moving into the area to target the pirate mother ships before they succeed in hijacking more vessels.

But, even with the naval forces in the area, it is unlikely they can patrol the 2.5 million square miles area effectively. Therefore, merchant shipping companies are increasingly hiring private security firms, such as Blackwater Worldwide, to help fight the battle. Some concerns have been raised about private security firms, which are unregulated because they can potentiality add harm to crewmembers. While, many are concerned that accidents can occur due to overzealous contractors, the U.S. Navy believes hiring private security firms is a positive trend, which encourages shipping companies to take preventative measures in order to ensure their own safety.