MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia pirates said on Saturday they would keep any Indian nationals from freed ships as hostages until fellow pirates held by India are set free.
Somali pirates, who make millions of dollars ransoming ships hijacked as far south as the Seychelles and eastwards towards India, on Friday released MT Asphalt Venture, but held some of its Indian crew.
"We are holding eight of Asphalt Venture crew. It was a joint understanding among us not to release any Indian citizens," a pirate who gave his name as Abdi told Reuters from pirate stronghold Harardhere.
"India hasn't only declared war against us, but also it has risked the lives of many hostages," he said.
An Indian warship stationed near the Gulf of Aden has thwarted dozens of hijacking attempts and escorts vessels passing through the region. India is holding more than 100 pirates it has detained mostly in rescue operations.
India has warned of an increased threat to shipping off its southwest coast, as Somali pirates hunt targets beyond African waters to evade the clutches of an international naval force.
There has been a rise in pirate attacks on merchant vessels within Indian waters.