Pirates demand compensation from S. Korean navy

By ABDI GULED | July 15, 2011 | 5:29 AM EDT

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Somali pirates holding South Korean hostages demanded on Friday that the South Korean government release pirate prisoners and pay compensation for a commando raid that killed several pirates earlier this year.

The attempt to use hostages to get concessions directly from their governments is a new trend, following demands made to the Indian government in April.

Hassan Abdi, one of the pirates holding 25 crew aboard the MV Gemini, told The Associated Press that his group wants compensation for eight pirates killed in February when South Korean commandos stormed a ship and freed 21 hostages.

Abdi also he wants pirates being held prisoner in South Korea to be released.

"First, we want the South Korean government to change its foolish treatment of us and come with a better approach toward us," he said in a statement read to the AP.

"Second, we want compensation from them because they killed our brothers and they also have to release others in their jails. After that we may reconsider holding their nationals in our hands," he said.

The MV Gemini was hijacked off the Kenyan coast in May. Four of the crew are South Korean.

For the past two years, pirates have been holding hundreds of hostages at any one time. Some are from nations like the Philippines, which does not have a naval presence off the East African coast. But many hostages are Indian, a country which has taken an active role in anti-piracy operations.

In April, pirates released the MV Asphalt Venture but kept seven Indian crew members, saying they had been angered by the Indian navy's killing of several colleagues and that the pirates wanted to exchange the hostages for prisoners held in India.

Most hijackings end with million-dollar ransoms being paid. The cash is a fortune in war-ravaged, drought-stricken Somalia. Most of the arid Horn of Africa nation has not had a functioning government for more than 20 years.