CAIRO: The owner of two boats carrying Egyptian fishermen kidnapped by pirates in Somali waters has said that he can pay no more than $100,000 for their release.
Pirates are demanding $5 million to release the fishermen.
The group of 37 Egyptian fishermen from Kafr El-Sheikh and Damietta left Egypt on March 13, 2009 and were seized at some point in the following 20 days.
At a protest held outside the People’s Assembly in May, relatives of the kidnapped men accused the Egyptian authorities of not doing enough to secure the release of the men.
The MENA news agency reported yesterday that Ahmed Rizq, deputy minister of consular affairs and Egyptians abroad, met relatives of the kidnapped fishermen on Sunday. Rizq is quoted as saying that the Foreign Ministry is “committed to securing the release of the fishermen as soon as possible.
He reportedly reassured relatives about the fishermen’s well being, saying that threats made by pirates “are blackmail aimed at securing the biggest possible ransom .
Activist Mohamed El-Nahhas, who has been involved in the campaign for the release of the fishermen refuted allegations made by MENA that the fishermen had set out to sea without obtaining the necessary permits from the Egyptian interior ministry.
“All boats and fishermen have a license from the military and intelligence bases in Boghazy, El-Nahhas told Daily News Egypt.
El-Nahhas says that “the government has refused to pay out any money … it has asked the people to sort it out on their own .
In addition to a letter signed by 1,200 people sent to the presidential office, El-Nahhas says that fishermen’s relatives plan to hold another demonstration in front of parliament soon. -Additional reporting by Raghda El-Halawany.