Sunday, November 8, 2009
Families of Spanish sailors being held for over a month appealed to Spain's government on Friday to negotiate with the Somali pirates for their release. The kidnappers have threatened to kill three of the tuna trawler's crew after a stand-off with Spanish forces.
They called upon the government to free two captured Somalis held in Spain, who are suspected of being involved in the seizure of the Alakrana and its crew of 36. As in the case with the Lynn Rival, a British yacht, the kidnappers have demanded their release.
Ricardo Blach, the captain of the trawler who is being held by the pirates, warned relatives by phone that they intended to kill the three crew members—moved from the trawler on Thursday and returned on Friday in a bid to pressure the Spanish government—should their demands not be met. "They have just told us that if in three days there is no change over the two held in Spain, they will kill the three and then three others and then more," he said.
The Spanish government has ruled this out, but is willing to hand them over to an African country, such as Kenya, as happened in May. "That is an issue for the courts to decide," commented Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega Sanz to reporters, adding that talking about this "technical topic which is legally very complicated" was "risky".
Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos stressed the need for calm amongst the tension of the removal and return of the three hostages. "What does this mean? It means we must remain calm. Kidnappings are complicated situations, with highs and lows, they are very difficult and stressful. But we must remain confident and calm," he said during a news conference. "If we remain calm and confident I am certain that what all Spaniards what, what the families want, what the government wants—that the hostages can return to their homes safe and sound and this kidnapping ends satisfactorily."
Families say the captured crew have "little drinking water or food,". They called for Spanish authorities to "act immediately" and "do everything possible to bring home the 36 fishermen." in a joint statement. "We demand that all the parties work in the same direction" and requested that the Spanish government chooses "negotiation" as opposed to risking the life of the crew in danger by forceful means.
The pirates captured the boat on October 2, and are demanding US$4 (€2.6) million in ransom in addition to the release of the two captured Somalis. The crew comprises sixteen Spaniards, the crew includes eight Indonesians and members from Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Senegal and the Seychelles.
Spanish military captured the two suspected pirates when they left the trawler via a small boat. On Friday, Spain's secretary of state for defence, Constantino Mendez, insisted that their release "is not negotiable." He announced on Spanish National Radio that the hostages are "in good health" and that the kidnappers are "dramatising" the situation as a "negotiating tactic."
Two Spanish frigates are observing the situation off the Somali coast.
== Sources ==
Agence France Presse. "Families urge negotiations after pirates' death threats" — France 24, November 7, 2009
"Somali pirates in deadly stand-off with Spanish forces over hostages" — The Times, November 7, 2009