By Jamila Najmuddin
A team of British experts are currently negotiating with Somali pirates for the release of the Sri Lankan crew members aboard the hijacked Saudi vessel ‘Al-Nisr Al Saudi’ and the negotiations are expected to go on for over a month, sources said.
Sources at the Foreign Ministry told Daily Mirror online that the experts who are now in contact with the pirates via a satellite telephone and negotiating for the release of the 13 member Sri Lankan crew and the Greek national.
Sources added that the negotiations are expected to go on for over a month as the Somali pirates have demanded a staggering amount of US$ 20 million as ransom for the release of the crew.
According to the experts, the Sri Lankan crew members have been given satellite telephone facilities by the pirates and are able to contact their family members which proves they are unharmed and safe, sources added.
Sources further said that the Foreign Ministry in Colombo has contacted the Sri Lankan missions in Nairobi and Saudi Arabia and told them to monitor the situation and ensure that the Sri Lankans are released without any harm.
The Saudi vessel was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden in the first week of March and the pirates have since then demanded for a ransom of US$ 20 million for the release of its crew.
According to media reports, Sri Lankan High Commissioner in Kenya Jayantha Dissanayake has said the vessel was now in the region of Gurey off the coast of Somalia.
As a result of the incident, he has urged Sri Lankan nationals to refrain from seeking employment on ships that sail across Somali waters.
Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has said that he will continue to monitor the situation and take all necessary measures to expedite the release of the Sri Lankans through Sri Lankan missions in Nairobi and Saudi Arabia. The Minister said that the government has instructed him to do everything possible to save the crew. (Daily Mirror online)