As an armed U.S. destroyer patrolled nearby and planes flew overhead, a Somali pirate spokesman demanded a $20m ransom to release a cargo ship loaded with Russian tanks, reports said.
Pirates demanded $20m in exchange for a Ukrainian-operated ship they hijacked off the coast of Somalia last week, according to The Associated Press.
Pirates seized the Ukrainian-operated ship Faina off the coast of Somalia as it headed to Kenya carrying 33 Russian-built T-72 tanks and a substantial quantity of ammunition and spare parts. The ordnance was ordered by the Kenyan government.
The guided missile destroyer USS Howard was stationed off the coast of Somalia on Sunday, making sure that the pirates did not remove the tanks, ammunition and other heavy weapons from the ship.
In a rare gesture of cooperation, the Americans appeared to be keeping an eye on the Faina until the Russian missile frigate Neustrashimy, or Intrepid, reaches the area. The Russian ship was still somewhere in the Atlantic on Sunday, the Russian navy reported.
Five nations have been sharing information to try to secure the swift release of the ship and its crew — Ukraine, Somalia, Russia, the United States and Britain. A man who said he was the captain of the seized ship and who identified himself as Viktor Nikolsky said that a Russian crew member died Sunday because of hypertension.