Islamic militants vow to free supertanker

Nov. 23, 2008 at 8:19 AM
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HARADHERE, Somalia, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- Hard-line Islamic militiamen have arrived in a lawless part of Somalia vowing to free a Saudi oil supertanker from the clutches of pirates, residents say.

Members of the militant al-Shabab group, which has been designated by the United States as a terrorist organization, have poured into the area around Harardhere, telling residents they are committed to freeing the Sirius Star and stamping out burgeoning piracy in the Gulf of Aden, CNN reported Sunday.

Ahmed Mohamed, a resident of the town, told the broadcaster the al-Shabab militias are opposed to hijacking ships owned by Muslims, such as the Saudi-owned Sirius Star. But other residents say the group's motive is sharing any possible ransom collected by the pirates, who are demanding a multimillion-dollar payoff from owner Vela International.

Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal acknowledged earlier this week that Vela faces a tough choice.

"We do not like to negotiate with either terrorists or hijackers, but the owners of the tanker are the owners of the tanker and they are the final arbiters of what happens there," he told CNN.

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