MOGADISHU, Somalia – Three Somali pirates were killed in a fight over the ransom paid to free the German-American journalist who was released this week after two years and eight months of captivity, a police official said Friday.
The gunfight broke out in the central town of Galkayo late Thursday when some of the pirates who held Michael Scott Moore attacked their comrades, accusing them of conducting a secret deal with negotiators, said Mohamed Hassan. A top pirate commander was among three people killed after Moore was freed on Tuesday, he said, adding that one camp of pirates accused the other of betrayal.
The clash started after one group of pirates appeared unwilling to share the cash with others, Bile Hussein, a pirate commander in the coastal town of Hobyo, told The Associated Press on Friday. He said earlier that a ransom of $1.6 million was paid by Somali intermediaries acting on behalf of Germany.
Germany's Foreign Ministry hasn't confirmed money was paid and U.S. policy forbids the payment of ransoms.
The 45-year-old Moore, who holds both German and U.S. citizenship, was flown to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where he was said to be getting medical care after being freed in Somalia, according to Germany's Foreign Ministry. A statement issued Thursday through the German magazine Der Spiegel, for which Moore had freelanced in the past, said he was safe but not healthy.
Moore was seized by pirates in January 2012 in Galkayo as he drove from the airport. Just four days later, U.S. Navy SEALs rescued an American and a Dane in a nighttime raid while killing all nine of their guards. Those two had also been kidnapped in Galkayo in October 2011.
Hussein, the pirate commander, said the pirates who held Moore grew tired of keeping him and were increasingly concerned the U.S. would attempt to use force to secure the journalist's freedom. The pirates had been holding out for a ransom of $5 million, he said, but decided to settle for $1.6 million offered by negotiators after a long period of silence.
The towns of Hobyo and Galkayo are well-known pirate dens in Somalia and Moore was abducted around the time pirates turned to kidnappings for income after their income from hijacking ships declined as a result of armed international vessels conducting anti-piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia.