Page last updated at 13:58 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

Pirate 'washes ashore with cash'

A ransom is apparently dropped onto the Sirius Star by parachute

The body of a Somali pirate who reportedly drowned soon after receiving a huge ransom has washed ashore with $153,000 in cash, his uncle says.

The man was one of a group of pirates who seized the Saudi supertanker Sirius Star in November.

They reportedly received $3m (1.95m) for freeing the tanker but five were said to have drowned after fleeing.

A relative of the drowned pirate told the BBC the family was now trying to dry out the recovered money.

The pirates' boat capsized when they were hit by rough seas as they were heading back to their homes in central Somalia, the leader of the pirates told AFP.

'Parachute drop'

The pirates disembarked the Sirius Star on Friday, after a small plane was seen apparently dropping the ransom by parachute on to the tanker.

A negotiator for the pirates told the BBC's reporter in Mogadishu by telephone that a $3m ransom had been paid shortly after the ship was released.

The ship's owner has refused to comment.

Map of Somalia

The tanker had been held for nearly two months off the coast of Somalia, near the town of Harardhere.

Eyewitnesses in the coastal town said five of the pirates had drowned while trying to make off with the loot.

"One of them was discovered and they are still looking for the other ones," resident Omar Abdi Hassan told the BBC.

The uncle of the pirate who washed ashore, Abukar Sheikh Hassan, told the BBC that the family had found $153,000 in a plastic bag in his pocket.

He said some of the money was wet and the family was now trying to dry it out.

Three pirates managed to survive, but lost their share of the ransom when swimming to shore, reports said.

The drowned pirate was apparently the only one who managed to hold on to his share of the ransom.

The Sirius Star was carrying $100m-worth of oil - a quarter of Saudi Arabia's daily output - when it was seized more than 450 nautical miles south-east of Kenya.

There were more than 100 reported pirate attacks in the busy shipping lanes off eastern and northern Somalia in 2008.

An international force headed by the US is due to be established by the end of the month to tackle the problem.

On Friday, Kenya's port authorities said a fishing vessel had been attacked and three Indian crew kidnapped, Reuters reported.

Pirates are still holding a Ukrainian cargo ship, the MV Faina, which was seized in late September carrying 33 tanks and other weaponry.

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