Maputo — The Somali pirates who hijacked a Mozambican fishing vessel, the "Vega 5" on 27 December are demanding a ransom equivalent to 59 million meticais (about 1.8 million US dollars) as a condition for the release of the crew, consisting of 19 Mozambicans, three Indonesians and two Spaniards, according to a report in Saturday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias".
The paper's sources are relatives of the Mozambican crew members who say that the pirate gang transmitted the ransom demand to the company that owns the "Vega 5", the Mozambican-Spanish joint venture, Pescamar.
The Pescamar management has refused to talk to journalists about the matter,
However, the management could not avoid talking to the relatives in the "Vega 5"'s home port of Beira, and told them about the ransom demand. But they did not say whether they were going to meet the pirates' demands.
"We are only praying that everything goes well", said one of the relatives, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The money they are asking for is a lot, but we think the lives of those who are in the hands of the pirates are more important than any monetary sum".
It seems that the pirates have avoided contact with the Mozambican government, preferring to deal directly with the owners of the vessel. This week Fisheries Minister Victor Borges said that the government had been unable to make any contact with the crew of the "Vega 5", and had received no communication from the pirates.