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Pirates Agree to Release Ukrainian Ship

Somali pirates have reportedly agreed to release a Ukrainian ship and its military cargo in return for a ransom from the vessel's owner.

News agencies say several people involved in the case confirmed the deal Sunday, including a spokesman for the pirates, Sugule Ali, a man, Mikhail Voitenko, representing the owner, and a Kenyan maritime official, Andrew Mwangura.

The reports said the pirates and the owner of the MV Faina were continuing to discuss how the ransom should be delivered. The pirates initially demanded a $35-million ransom, but later lowered their demand to $3 million.

Pirates captured the Ukrainian ship on September 24 in the Gulf of Aden as it headed to Kenya, carrying Russian-made T-72 tanks, ammunition and other military hardware. About 20 crew members have been held on the vessel, mostly Ukrainians and Russians.

Kenya says it was the intended recipient of the Faina's military cargo. But maritime officials and diplomats in the region have said the cargo was destined for the government of Sudan's southern autonomous region.

Somali pirates have captured about 15 vessels in a recent wave of hijackings that has forced international warships to patrol the Gulf of Aden.

On November 15, pirates took a Saudi tanker carrying $100 million worth of oil.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.