Archive for the ‘arms’ Category

Somali pirates agree deal for Ukrainian ship release

November 30, 2008

Pirates guarding an arms-laden Ukrainian ship said Sunday that it would be released within days, but the fate of a Saudi oil carrier was unclear hours from a 25-million-dollar ransom demand’s expiry.

Sugule Ali, spokesman for the pirates who hijacked the MV Faina in September with its cargo of battle tanks and weapons, said it was “a matter of technicality and time” before the vessel was freed.

AFP

A handout photo provided by the US Navy shows the Belize-flagged ... 
A handout photo provided by the US Navy shows the Belize-flagged Ukrainian cargo MV Faina off Somalia’s Indian Ocean coast. Pirates guarding the arms-laden Ukrainian ship said Sunday that it would be released within days, but the fate of a Saudi oil carrier was unclear hours from a 25-million-dollar ransom demand’s expiry.(AFP/HO/File)

“I can’t tell you what the ransom is, but what can I say is that agreement has finally been reached,” Ali told AFP from the ship.

“Within four days, we must leave and we are preparing for the safe landing of our members,” he said. “We have no doubt this problem will be resolved and I hope the owners will honour the last remaining points.”

The MV Faina was hijacked on September 25 on its way to Kenya, ferrying 33 Soviet-type battle tanks, anti-air systems, rocket launchers and ammunition. The ship has a crew of 17 Ukrainians, three Russians and one Latvian.

“Our members are very tired and the crew are also very tired. We all want this matter to be resolved.

“We were very lenient during the discussions because the community in the area was putting pressure on us to release the ship, especially the elders.” Ali explained.

The US military has overflown the hijacked vessel several times to take pictures of the crew lined up on the bridge and verify that all were in good health.

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The Sirius Star anchored off the coast of Somalia on November ...
The Sirius Star anchored off the coast of Somalia on November 19. Somali pirates demanding $25 million for a Saudi super-tanker are hoping for a “favourable” reply as the deadline for paying the ransom loomed.(AFP/Ho)

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How can Russia pay for its new weapons plans?

October 18, 2008

Russia is planning to boost its military spending to its highest levels since the height of the Cold War, but where is it going to get the money to pay for it?

Former Defense Minister and current Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, Russian Prime Minister and former President Vladimir Putin’s trusted right-hand man in reviving the Russian military over the past eight years, announced Thursday that the Kremlin’s military budget would be boosted to $50 billion next year.

From WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 (UPI) — By Martin Sieff

“This is the total aggregate amount — 1.3 trillion rubles — for 2009. I hope that the State Duma will approve this sum in its second reading tomorrow (Friday),” Ivanov stated, RIA Novosti reported.

Ivanov, revealingly, said the increase would be greater than the one originally planned because military needs had been reviewed following the initial assessment of the Russian armed forces’ performance in their successful operations in the former Soviet republic of Georgia in the Caucasus in August.

The Russian army overran one-third of mountainous and heavily forested Georgia in only five days from Aug. 8 to 12. However, reports in the Russian press have said the army’s communications and command and control systems were very weak, and the Russian air force sustained unexpected losses from U.S-supplied anti-aircraft systems that the Georgians operated.

Tu-160.jpg

Russia has a lot of older technology military equipment that it would like to replace.  Above: a TU- 160 “White Swan” bomber, considered a museum piece by many Western military experts.

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pay_for_its_new_weapons_plans/UPI-17011224283088/

Owners Give Ransom; Pirates Release 22 At Sea

October 18, 2008

SEOUL (AFP) – Somali pirates released 22 sailors they kidnapped last month after the South Korean ship owner paid a ransom, an official said Friday.

Somali pirates prey on ships that pass through one of the most ... 

The eight South Koreans and 14 Myanmarese were freed Thursday. They had been held since their 15,000-tonne cargo ship was seized off the coast of the east African nation on September 10.

Koo Ja-Woo, an executive director of J and J Trust, which owns the ship, said his company paid an unspecified sum to the pirates through a foreign middleman with experience in dealing with the seizure of ships.

“As a result, we could secure the early release of the sailors. But I cannot disclose the amount,” he told Yonhap news agency.

J and J officials and South Korea’s foreign ministry were not immediately available for comment.

Somali pirates seized the Ukrainian cargo ship MV Faina -- which ...
Somali pirates seized the Ukrainian cargo ship MV Faina — which is laden with tanks and weapons — in September 2008. As Somalia sinks ever deeper into hunger and despair, attacking foreign ships bottle-necking into the Gulf of Aden is proving to be one of the few profitable activities in the country.(AFP/Jason R. Zalasky)

The ministry said earlier the South Koreans were expected to return home on October 26.

Somali waters are the world’s most dangerous for piracy. The International Maritime Bureau reported more than 24 attacks in the area between April and June alone.

Maritime experts say many attacks go unreported along Somalia’s 3,700 kilometres (2,300 miles) of largely unpatrolled coast. Pirates operate high-powered speedboats and carry heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.

A South Korean tuna ship with 25 crew was hijacked by Somali pirates in April 2006. The ship and its crew were released after four months when a ransom was paid.

Last year Somali pirates seized two South Korean vessels and 24 crew including four South Koreans.

The crew were released in November after six months in captivity. Local media reports said the pirates had demanded a ransom of five million dollars before reducing the sum to an undisclosed figure.

Puntland coastal guards stand on the deck during a sea-patrol ...
Puntland coastal guards stand on the deck during a sea-patrol near the northern port town of Bosasso October 17, 2008. Somali security forces freed a Panamanian ship from pirates two days after they killed one of the hijackers in a gun battle.REUTERS/Abdiqani Hassan (SOMALIA)

Puntland coastal guards gather after a sea-patrol near the northern ...

Somali pirates free 22 sailors seized in September

October 16, 2008

SEOUL, South Korea – Pirates who seized a cargo ship off the coast of Somalia more than a month ago on Thursday freed the 22 sailors and the vessel, a South Korean official said.

Somali pirates seized the Ukrainian cargo ship MV Faina -- which ... 
Somali pirates seized the Ukrainian cargo ship MV Faina — which is laden with tanks and weapons. As Somalia sinks ever deeper into hunger and despair, attacking foreign ships bottle-necking into the Gulf of Aden is proving to be one of the few profitable activities in the country.(AFP/Jason R. Zalasky)

The crew members — eight South Koreans and 14 citizens from Myanmar — were heading toward a U.S. Navy vessel in the area after being set free earlier in the day, Foreign Ministry spokesman Moon Tae-young told reporters.

Moon said the sailors were all safe but declined to comment whether a ransom was paid.

The South Korean cargo vessel was hijacked by Somalia pirates on Sept. 10 in the Gulf of Aden — one of 29 ships hijacked this year off the African coast. The latest is a Philippine bulk carrier seized in the Gulf of Aden on Wednesday with a crew of 21.

Also being held off the coast is the MV Faina, a Ukrainian ship carrying weapons and tanks. U.S. warships have surrounded the Faina as the pirates who seized it demanded millions of dollars in ransom.

Officials say 10 hijacked ships remain in the hands of pirates, along with about 200 crew members. With no effective government, Somalia cannot protect its coastline. It is located along the Gulf of Aden, which connects the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean and is one of the world’s busiest waterways with some 20,000 ships passing through it each year.

But international pressure on the pirates is growing….

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Somalia: Pirates Rethink Blowing Up Ship

October 16, 2008

The Somali pirates who hijacked a freighter full of weapons appeared Wednesday to be backing down from earlier threats to blow up the ship if they were not paid a ransom. A pirate speaking by satellite phone said Wednesday that an excessive number of mediators had been hampering the negotiations, but that the pirates did not plan to harm the crew. People on shore near the ship said that the pirates had recently hauled aboard enough spaghetti, rice and goat meat to last them several months. The freighter was hijacked Sept. 25 off Somalia’s coast, and the pirates have demanded millions of dollars before they set it free.

Syrian, Russian Missiles, Weapons Sales Agreements “Of Concern”

October 15, 2008

The Telegraph (London, UK)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks at a press conference in Moscow
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaks at a press conference in Moscow Photo: AFP/GETTY

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said he was ready to deliver “defensive” weapons to the Arab state when the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited Moscow on Thursday.

“We are obviously very concerned about reports that Russia may be providing weapons systems to Syria,” said the State Department spokesman Robert Wood. “We have always said to the Russians that these sales should not go forward, they don’t contribute to regional stability and, again, I urge them not to go through with these sales if there is any intent to go through with them.”

The warning followed an Israeli statement that the weapons sales could “destabilise” the balance of power in the Middle East.

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, now plans to visit Moscow in early September to try to persuade President Dmitry Medvedev to abandon any arms deal.

“Depending on the nature of the deal, he may try to block it,” an aide to Mr Olmert said of the planned trip.

The Jewish state is particularly worried about the prospect of Syria obtaining anti-tank or anti-aircraft missiles that could then be channelled to Hizbollah in Lebanon.

Israel fears its own history of arms sales to Georgia could provoke Russia into a retaliatory move after the recent conflict in the Caucasus.

“A reinforcement of links between Damascus and Moscow amounts to a very negative development,” said Tazhi Hanegvi, head of the Israeli parliament’s foreign affairs committee. “It would push Syria to adopt an irresponsible and adventurist policy.”

Despite the tension, however, Israel and Syria are engaged in indirect peace talks for the first time in eight years.

Syria is hoping to negotiate an Israeli withdrawal from territory in the Golan Heights, which Israel seized during the six day war in 1967.
**************

From the Middle East Newsline

NICOSIA [MENL] — Syria was said to have purchased flawed surface-to-surface missiles from Russia.

Arab sources said the Syrian military ordered a low-quality missile from
Russia. The sources said the missile was purchased by Syrian officials
bribed by a Russian contractor.
Rakieta wz8K-14 SCUD RB.jpg

China Defense Minister Blasts US Arms Sale to Taiwan

October 14, 2008

By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer

BEIJING – China’s defense minister has demanded that the U.S. cancel a $6.5 billion arms sale to Taiwan, saying it created “obstacles” in relations between Beijing and Washington.

Liang Guanglie’s remarks are the latest show of pique by Beijing over the arms package that includes Patriot III missiles, Apache helicopters, and parts for F-16 jet fighters.

Officials bow to a picture of Sun Yat-sen, who founded the Nationalist ...
Officials bow to a picture of Sun Yat-sen, who founded the Nationalist Party which ran China until 1949, during Taiwan’s National Day celebrations in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei October 10, 2008.REUTERS/Nicky Loh (TAIWAN)

Washington must “strictly adhere to its commitments on the Taiwan issue, immediately cancel all items regarding arms sales to Taiwan and cease U.S.-Taiwan military relations,” Liang was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency on Tuesday as telling visiting U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

The sale has not “not only damaged relations between the two countries and two militaries, but also created obstacles in exchanges and cooperation in all areas including high level exchanges between the two militaries,” Liang was quoted as saying at his Monday meeting with Hagel.

That was an apparent reference to Beijing’s suspension of some senior-level visits and other planned exchanges, announced earlier this month to the Pentagon but not publicly confirmed by Chinese officials.

Claimed by China as its own territory, Taiwan is a perennial bugbear in relations between Beijing and Washington. China strongly objects to U.S. legislation requiring Washington to ensure that Taiwan can defend itself from Chinese threats to attack if the island moves to cement its de-facto independent status.

However, despite the suspension of high-level military contacts and a further diplomatic protest from Beijing, experts say they don’t anticipate a wider rift developing over the latest arms sale.

Tensions between Taipei and Beijing have eased since the inauguration of Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou, who has pledged to build bridges with the mainland in contrast to the more confrontational tone taken by his independence-leaning predecessor Chen Shui-bian.
F-16 June 2008.jpg
Above: F-16

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on_re_as/as_china_us_taiwan_1

Somali Pirates Uncertain on Deadline to Destroy Ship

October 13, 2008

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Somali pirates holding an arms-laden Ukrainian tanker off Somalia may extend the deadline on their threat to destroy the vessel, a spokesman said Monday.
The Ukrainian ship MV Faina has been held by priates off the coast of Somalia since September 25.

Above: The Ukrainian ship MV Faina has been held by priates off the coast of Somalia since September 25.

In Kiev, angry relatives of the ship’s crew members demanded that Ukraine’s government stop delaying and just pay a multimillion-dollar ransom to the pirates.

The pirates have said they will destroy the MV Faina on Monday night or early Tuesday unless a ransom is paid.

They may extend the deadline following requests from the ship’s owner and other unidentified people, pirate spokesman Sugule Ali said.

The pirates were reviewing the deadline to see whether to “modify it and if that is not possible, to execute it,” Ali told The Associated Press by satellite telephone from the ship.

The crew members’ relatives tried and failed to meet with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko in Kiev over the ransom demand, which began at euro14.7 million ($20 million) and has since appeared to drop. They vowed not to leave the president’s office.

“We will not leave until we meet with the president,” said Yelena Priskha, 41, as she stood outside Yushchenko’s office. “We will sleep on the stairs and will collect the money ourselves.”

Somali pirates die at sea in fighting

October 13, 2008

by Mustafa Haji Abdinur

MOGADISHU (AFP) – Forces from the Somali breakaway region of Puntland on Sunday attacked pirates holding a Somali cargo freighter, triggering clashes that killed two pirates and a soldier, an official said.

Four others, including another Puntland soldier, were wounded when the forces attempted to rescue MV Awail, owned by a Somali trading company with a crew of 13 Syrians and two Somalis, which was seize Thursday off the region’s shores.

A handout photo provided by the US Navy shows the Belize-flagged ... 
A handout photo provided by the US Navy shows the Belize-flagged Ukrainian cargo MV Faina in the Indian Ocean. Pirates holding a Ukrainian arms ship off the Somali coast have rejected a local mediator, delaying efforts to free the freighter laden with battle tanks and others arms(AFP/Jason R. Zalasky)

The fighting comes amid mounting pressure over piracy in the waters around Somalia, with US and international navies blockading a kidnapped Ukrainian vessel loaded with tanks and weapons.

“They surrounded the (Somali) ship this morning near Hafun area, where they exchanged fire with pirates killing two of them. One of our men also died,” said Muse Gelle Yusuf, governor of Puntland’s Bari region.

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Talks to free Ukrainian arms ship collapse: pirates spokesman

October 10, 2008

The crago of the ship seized by pirates includes 33 tanks and surface to air missiles….

NAIROBI (AFP) – Talks aimed at freeing a Ukrainian arms ship held by Somali pirates collapsed on Friday, a spokesman for the pirates told AFP, deepening the two-week stand off.

This photo provided by the US Navy shows the Belize-flagged ...
This photo provided by the US Navy shows the Belize-flagged Ukrainian cargo ship MV Faina in September 2008 off Somalia’s Indian Ocean coast. Talks aimed at freeing a Ukrainian arms ship being held by Somali pirates collapsed on Friday, a spokesman for the pirates told AFP, deepening the two-week stand-off.(AFP/US Navy/File/Jason R. Zalasky)

“The negotiations with the owner of the ship have totally collapsed. The owners are changing their mind from time to time, maybe because they are being advised by somebody that they can resolve the matter militarily,” Sugule Ali told AFP from the ship.

“Given the situation, we are on alert and preparing ourselves for any eventuality, including military against us,” he added.

“Therefore, we have given the ship’s owner three days to respond positively to the negotiations, otherwise we will take some action that we will not reveal now,” Ali added.

The pirates have been demanding 20 million dollars to release the MV Faina and its 21 crew, seized on September 25 while it sailed toward the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, although sources close to the hijackers say the amount may have been reduced after several days of talks.

The exact details of the negotiations remain sketchy, but the pirates have insisted they must be paid before letting go the ship.

Kenya has shrugged off lingering speculation on the identity of the final recipient of the cargo of 33 tanks, surface-to-air systems and other weapons pirates seized on a Ukrainian ship.

Many industry experts and intelligence sources have suggested the arms were bound for South Sudan, and not Kenya as Nairobi and Kiev have repeatedly insisted.

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