US Navy says Ukraine arms cargo for Sudan

Kenyan military denies US claim


A Ukrainian vessel seized by Somali pirates off Somalia last week, which was carrying tanks and other weapons, was destined for Sudan and not Kenya as announced by Nairobi, a U.S. military spokesman said on Monday.

"We have a report indicating that the cargo and the shipment was headed to Sudan," Nathan Christensen, spokesman for the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet, said, declining to speculate on the intended recipients.

A Kenyan defense ministry spokesman denied the US navy claim that the cargo of tanks and military supplies was in fact destined for Sudan and not Kenya.

"The Kenyan and Ukrainian governments have all the documents to prove that this cargo belongs to the Kenyan government and not some unknown buyers in Sudan," defense ministry spokesman Bogita Ongeri told AFP.

Sudan is rife with potential clients, including the Sudanese army, numerous rebel groups active in the restive Darfur province as well as former southern rebels from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

The U.S. naval forces central command in the region said earlier that a U.S. destroyer and other foreign navy ships had converged on Monday on the Ukrainian vessel, the MV Faina.

"San Diego-based destroyer USS Howard is on station and is in visual range of MV Faina, which is anchored off the Somalia coast near the harbor city of Hobyo," the command said.

The Belize-flagged ship was headed to the Kenyan port of Mombasa when it was seized last Thursday with a crew of 21. Nairobi said the shipment was part of a contract with Ukraine to update some of its military hardware.

According to the Ukrainian defense ministry, the MV Faina is carrying 33 Soviet-type T-72 tanks as well as other military supplies.

Somali pirates who hijacked the freighter are demanding 20 million dollars in ransom.