Pirate leader in talks with ship owner

Oct. 1, 2008 at 1:31 PM

MOGADISHU, Somalia, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The leader of the Somali pirates who hijacked a Ukrainian ship bound for Kenya says he's in constant contact with the ship's owner on ransom negotiations.

Reached via satellite phone, Sugule Ali told The Nation newspaper of Nairobi that he's also been in contact with the U.S. Navy vessels that have surrounded the cargo vessel in the Indian Ocean off the Somalia coast.

"The dialogue in on in all channels. We are in contact with the ship's owners," Ali said.

When asked what would happen to the ship's crew if the owners of the vessel, reportedly identified as Waterlux AG of Panama, didn't meet the $20 million ransom, Ali responded, "Let us not discuss that issue now because we are still discussing with the ship owners."

The Nation, quoting unnamed sources, said three dissident pirates were killed in a fierce gun battle with other hijackers when they advocated surrendering, and that a crew member had also died.

Ali confirmed the death of the crew member but denied reports of internecine fighting, saying, "Those are falsehoods being peddled out there … we are youthful men who are in this thing together."

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