S.A. Nicholas, the captain of the oil tanker that was hijacked by the Somali pirates, told Daily Mirror on Thursday evening that their lives were at risk because of the presence of Somalian coast guard boats in the vicinity.
He requested the Sri Lankan Government to mediate and send away the coast guard's boats as their presence put their lives in danger.
“There are some coast guard boats here. Ask them to leave immediately. Otherwise these pirates will shoot us,” the captain told Daily Mirror over the phone last evening. He said that all eight Sri Lankan crew members were in good health but that the authorities should immediately start negotiating with the pirates.
“They (the pirates) asked us to pressure our government (the SL govt.) to tell the Somali authorities to cease firing at the pirates immediately,” he said.
When asked whether they had informed the authorities of the situation, he said they had informed the Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Harsha de Silva said they had personally contacted the Sri Lankan crew of the hijacked oil tanker and looked into their well being.
He said he contacted the chief of staff of the Puntland President and requested him to put a stop to the firing and they had immediately stopped firing at the oil tanker.
He said the Consul General in Dubai had already held discussions with the owner of the ship about the demands of the pirates. ‘We are in constant touch with our Consul General in Dubai who has continued to monitor the situation of our crew,” Dr. Silva said.
Meanwhile, an international news agency quoted the head of the Puntland maritime force as saying that they had exchanged gunfire with the hijackers of an oil tanker in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland.
"We tried to intercept a boat that was carrying supplies to the pirates, but the pirates on the ship fired on us and so the pirate boat escaped," said Abdirahman Mohamud Hassan, the director general of the maritime force of Puntland.
A pirate who had spoken to Reuters news agency had threatened to kill the hostages if the Puntland forces continued to fire at them. "We shall kill the crew if Puntland forces fire on us again," pirate Abdullahi told Reuters.(Darshana Sanjeewa and Ajith Siriwardane)