Pirates Seek $20 Million for Ship, Crew

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Forget buried treasure. The pirates of Somalia are after bigger riches.

They're asking for $20 million in ransom money to release a Ukranian cargo ship they seized off the coast of Somalia last week.

The ship named Faina contains 33 Russian-made tanks, ammunition and spare parts. It was bound for Sudan, not Kenya as was previously claimed by officials.

The U.S. Navy warships and helicopters in conjunction with Russian ships have surrounded the Ukranian vessel, which is docked off the coast of Somalia.

The measure was necessary to keep the weapons from falling "into the wrong hands," according to American Navy spokesman Lt. Nathan Christensen.

The U.S. fears the weapons on board the Faina might end up with al-Qaeda-linked Islamic militants who have been fighting against the shaky Somali government since 2006. The current government is recognized by the United Nations, who is backing it.

"We will maintain a vigilant watch over the ship and remain on station while negotiations take place," said Rear Adm. Kendall Card, commander of the task force monitoring the ship. "Our goal is to ensure the safety of the crew, to not allow off-loading of dangerous cargo and to make certain Faina can return to legitimate shipping."

The pirates seized the vessel on Thursday and anchored it off Somalia's coast near Hobyo. One of the Latvian crewmembers has died.

There have been more than two dozen attacks by pirates on ships in Somalian waters this year, according to the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center.

Sources: CBN News, The Associated Press

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