If rebels are allowed to board the vessels, hostages risk becoming stuck in the middle of dangerous rows or, worse, being kidnapped by al Shabaab rebels, who claim ties with al Qaeda.Shipowners fear any proven link between pirates and Islamist fighters will make it legally difficult to pay ransoms without running foul of counter-terrorism legislation.Pirates in Haradheere agreed last week to hand al Shabaab insurgents a 20 percent cut of ransoms but a deep distrust prevails between the two sides."They demanded we allow six of their fighters to board each of our hijacked ships. We have not left our houses since Wednesday. Worse, we are constantly receiving threatening text messages," he said, adding negotiations had begun again.Owners of hijacked vessels usually air-drop cash onto the boats and then the pirates disembark.Despite a flotilla of international warships patrolling the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden, pirates continue to rake in tens of millions of dollars in ransoms each year.Al Shabaab set up an office in Haradheere after last week's deal."Negotiations are going on and again I reckon the pirates have no other option but to accept al Shabaab's order," said local elder Ahmed Wardheere, who was involved in negotiations over splitting the ransom.
Pirates typically target merchant vessels, with oil tankers considered the prize catch, and yachts to get a ransom for their release. But foreign navies have become bolder in launching rescue missions.As the number of Somali pirates killed by foreign troops on the high seas rises, so too does their hostility towards hijacked crew.Pirates shot dead four U.S. hostages on a yacht, earlier this month, the deadliest incident involving Americans kidnapped for ransom in the increasingly dangerous waters off the Horn of Africa nation. U.S.-forces killed a number of pirates.One pirate said his colleagues were turning to black magic to counter the mounting perils."Some of my colleagues have two sorcerers in Haradheere and Galkayo. These two are expert in explaining the outcome of future hijackings or pending navy attacks by using 'Faal'", a pirate called Hussein said, referring to a local magic where the future is told through markings drawn in the soil.A sorcerer can earn thousands of dollars and be showered with luxury 4x4 vehicles for accurate predictions that yield a booty for the pirates.The black magic has upset local residents amid rumours the sorcerers are instructing the pirates to sacrifice young children and older women after their comrades died in the shoot-out with U.S. troops."I ran away from the pirates after they killed three men in Hobyo. I heard the next step was to assassinate women who had been through menopause like me," 60-year-old Fatuma Rashid told Reuters by phone from Galkayo."And when I arrived in Galkayo, I met mothers worried about their babies. They say they were being hunted by pirates who now believe human killings may be more powerful than slaughtering wild animals."Pirate Hussein said the sorcerers only request the sacrifice of a rabbit or crocodile to avert death on the ocean.