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Pirates Release Cargo Ship with 33 Tanks Aboard

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The U.S. Navy fleet ocean tug USNS Catawba provides fuel and fresh water to the Ukranian ship Faina following its release by Somali pirates, Feb. 5, 2009.
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael R. McCormick

Navy Provides Humanitarian Assistance to Faina Crew
American Forces Press Service

MANAMA, Bahrain, Feb. 6, 2009 – The U.S. Navy is providing humanitarian assistance to the Ukranian ship Faina and its crew following the ship's release yesterday by Somali pirates.

Sailors from the Norfolk-based destroyer USS Mason went aboard Faina to conduct a health and comfort inspection of the crew as well as to provide Faina's crew with food, water and medical support. The U.S. Navy fleet ocean tug USNS Catawba also provided fuel and fresh water to the merchant vessel.

Faina is anchored off the coast of Somalia, near Hobyo, and is making engineering preparations to get under way.

Somali pirates released Faina yesterday after holding it for more than four months. The U.S. Navy has remained within visual range of the ship and maintained a 24-hour, seven-day–a-week presence since it was captured.

Pirates attacked Faina off the coast of Somalia on Sept. 25. While the ship initially had a crew of 21, the ship's captain reportedly suffered a heart attack shortly after being taken hostage. The pirates refused requests to turn over the captain's remains. The ship's remaining crew includes 17 Ukrainian citizens, two Russians and one Latvian.

(From a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, 5th Fleet public affairs news release.)

In case you were wondering (you were, weren't you?), someone paid over $3,000,000 for the release of the vessel.  The money was air dropped.  Someone did not want the cargo to get to Somalia where Al Qaida could acquire it.  Who paid the ransom?

The cargo?

Thirty-three Russian T-72 tanks, heavy weapons systems like RPGs and Triple-A, and small arms.

Destination?

Kenya. Or the Sudan.  No one knows for certain.

Update: Perhaps this is why Kenya was relatively quickly on board as the court/legal system to try the pirates.  (ie they want their gear!)

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