Piracy REPORT:Piracy
UPDATE
MT Gemini Free, 4 S. Koreans Still Captive
Four South Korean Crew Still Held
Korean Hostages on the MT Gemini
©Somalia Report
Korean Hostages on the MT Gemini

The Singapore-flagged oil tanker MT GEMINI now nears Mombasa, less four crew members. Pirates released the MT Gemini and 21 crew members on Thursday, although they keep captive four South Korean seamen who were on the ship.

The MT Gemini was taken on April 30, and pirates had initially demanded $5 million for its release. Sources close to piracy circles said that the pirates had received $6 million ransom money to secure the release of the vessel and her 21 crew members; they are now demanding to be paid compensation amounting to $4 million by the South Korean government for the loss of life of their 10 colleagues.

Ten Somali pirates were shot dead by South Korean commandos during a rescue mission on the MV SAMHO DREAM in April 2011. A pirate who identified himself as Kafi claimed that the pirates had received $4,050,000 for the crew of the MT Gemini, minus the four South Koreans, being held in the bush areas between Hobyo & Harardhere. These claims have yet to be substantiated.

Sources close to piracy circles said that the pirates had received $6 million ransom money to secure the release of the vessel and her 21 crew members; they are now demanding to be paid compensation amounting to $4 million by the South Korean government for the loss of life of their 10 colleagues. The gunmen are holding back four South Korean crew members of the vessel until the South Korean government pays them compensation, said the sources.

This group of pirates is mostly from Sacad clan (Hawiye) and Mohamed Garfanje, a well-known pirate commander, had a share in this vessel.

"The Singaporean vessel has been released on Wednesday late after payment, but they kept the South Korean crew ... because they want six of their colleagues jailed in South Korea to be released," Mu'min Ali, a Haradhere-based pirate, told Somalia Report. "The ransom amount is not clear, as pirate groups don't like to reveal how much they got these days."

The vessel was left anchored at Hobyo, he said.

Nairobi-based diplomats said the vessel would shortly get underway, and that the four Koreans were taken to an unknown destination on shore.

The Singapore-based owner Glory Ship Management confirmed the release in a statement.

"The pirates ... released 21 of the 25 crew on board but kept hostage four South Korean seamen, including the captain, back ashore at the last moment despite earlier promises to release the entire crew," Reuters news agency reported the company as saying. "We are relieved that 21 of the crew have been released and are in good health. We will expedite their speedy return home. Meanwhile, we are doing all we can to secure the release of the four South Koreans still held as hostage."

In July pirates threatened to kill the South Korean hostages.

The 25 crew consisted of 13 Indonesians, 5 Chinese, 3 Myanmar, and 4 South Koreans.

The decision to keep the South Koreans is in line with new tactic from the pirates to hold onto crew members from countries who have significant numbers of pirates in custody or have been active in anti-piracy measures. In October, pirates declared that they will not release Indian hostages until the government releases their friends from their jails.

“Pirates are beginning to hunt South Korean crews as well as Indian; it is a message to South Korea to release our friends. The four South Korean are now alive and they are on land,” Tuur, a pirate in the Harardhere area told Somalia Report. "We tell the South Korean government that no South Koreans will be released even if a ransom is paid."

The vessel is expected to dock Mombasa port in the next 24 hours.

Mohamed Odowa also contributed to this story.