Somalian pirates drown with ransom cash

The most audacious raid in their country's history of piracy ended in tragedy for the kidnappers

Ian Johnston
Sunday 11 January 2009 01:00 GMT

As they took their leave of the Saudi Arabian supertanker, they were "full of joy" at having pulled off the biggest coup in Somalian piracy.

After sailing hundreds of miles from their pirate base, they had seized a ship the size of an aircraft carrier carrying $100m of crude oil, faced down an international fleet for two months and extracted a reported $3m ransom for the release of the Sirius Star and its crew, including two Brits.

But yesterday came the news that some of the dozens of pirates involved had, in the words of one victim, "got their comeuppance". As they celebrated the success of the audacious operation, one heavily laden boat capsized and six of the 14 on board drowned.

Pirate captain Mohamed Said, speaking yesterday from Xarardheere, north of Mogadishu, said: "Six of our boys perished while coming from the Saudi supertanker. The small boat that was carrying those killed and the eight who survived was overloaded and at high speed. They were afraid of a chase from outsiders [foreign navies of the Combined Maritime Forces] who invaded Somalia waters." The survivors were said to have swum for "several hours" to reach the shore.

The Sirius Star, the largest ship to have been hijacked, was taken in the Indian Ocean more than 500 miles south-east of Mombasa, Kenya, an area thought to be too far away to be at risk of piracy.

A Xarardheere resident, Mohamud Aden, said: "The pirates were overspeeding. That was their tragedy."

The Foreign Office said it understood the two Britons aboard Sirius Star – Chief Engineer Peter French and Second Officer James Grady – were safe and well.

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