Pirate Tactics Turn Gruesome

FV Shiuh Fu No 1
FV Shiuh Fu No 1, image courtesy EUNAVFOR

– By JD, Somalia Report

Pirates Cut Hand off Hostage to Force $3M Ransom

Somali pirates holding the crew of the hijacked Taiwanese flagged FV Shiuh Fu No 1 shifted to a new and graphic tactic to push owners to pay ransom. Pirates and other local sources informed Somalia Report that they had cut the hand off the captain of the ship . This marks a significant turn in the way pirates manage hostages and the first noted instance of forced amputation by Somali pirates in recent years.

After the owner refused to pay the demanded $3 million ransom, pirates amputated the hand of Chao-I Wu, the captain of the vessel, according to pirates and the hostages’ family members.

“Ever since pirates hijacked this vessel, negotiations about releasing the vessel and hostages were ongoing. In fact, more than twice the negotiations were stalled. Months later the negotiations restarted and the pirates finally demanded $3 million in ransom. The owner refused to pay, causing a direct conflict between pirates, the owners and relatives of these hostages,” said the pirate.

The conflict forced the change in tactics, according to the pirate.

“After weeks of discussions and failure to come to an agreement, the pirates finally decided to cut off the right hand of captain of the vessel. His name is Chao-I Wu. They also beat the deputy captain,” he added.

After the forced amputation, the Vietnamese crew members called their families to notify them of the new tactic and urged them to pay the ransom. They also reported the captain’s arm, not just his hand, was cut off.

“This group of pirates allowed the crew to call their relatives for only a few minutes – just long enough to tell their families about the amputation. They begged their relatives to pay and some of them were crying. It was a message to the owner and their families that if the owners don’t pay this amount of ransom that they will hurt another crew,” said the pirate.

Vietnamese newspaper Tuoi Tre News confirmed that hostage crew member Tran Van Hung called home on January 20th to report the amputation and urged the shipowner to make the ransom payment. The pirates, the newspaper reported, “allowed 12 Vietnamese fishermen and some other Chinese ones to call home for 5 minutes each.”

Pirates Deny Shabaab Influence

While new to pirates, forced amputation is a regular punishment by al-Shabaab militants in Somalia. The pirates claim the militants did not have any influence on their decision to cut off the captain’s limb.

“We don’t have direct relations with al-Shabaab. It’s true that we have a business relationship, but we don’t take their advice. This decision was only to force the owners to pay,” said the pirate.

Pirates recently purchased two Spanish aid workers from al-Shabaab militants, making a direct and public link between the pirates the militants.

Crew are in poor health

After being held for more than a year, several of the crew are suffering from a number of ailments, according to the pirates.

“My friends informed us that a number of crew are not in good health because of the climate, food and water. Four are very ill and need a doctor because of their headaches and stomach aches,” said another pirate in an interview with Somalia Report.

The vessel, now being used as a mothership, was hijacked on December 25, 2010 approximately 120 nautical miles off the north east tip of Madagascar. Her 26 crew (13 Chinese, 12 Vietnamese and one Taiwanese) are being held captive on land near Harardhere area in Somalia’s Mudug region, according to pirates sources.

When contacted by Somalia Report, neither Taiwan nor China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs were available to comment due to the Chinese New Year.

Republished with permission, (c) 2012 Somalia Report.com