Disagreements between Somali pirates holding a Ukrainian ship laden with tanks and heavy weapons escalated into a shootout and three pirates are believed dead, a U.S. defense official said Tuesday. The pirates denied the report.
The U.S. destroyer USS Howard and several other American ships have surrounded the cargo ship Faina, which was hijacked Thursday and is now anchored off the lawless coast of Somalia. The pirates have demanded a ransom of $20 million and the U.S. Navy cordon aims to prevent them from taking any of the weapons ashore.
The official in Washington who reported the shootout spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record. He refused to elaborate.
But the pirate spokesman insisted the report was not true. “We didn’t dispute over a single thing, let alone have a shootout,” pirate spokesman Sugule Ali said by satellite telephone Tuesday.
He said the Somali pirates were celebrating the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr despite being surrounded by American warships and helicopters.
“We are happy on the ship and we are celebrating Eid,” Mr. Ali said. “Nothing has changed.” The Islamic feast marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
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