Pirates release 22 sailors after almost three years

Mon, Dec 24, 2012, 00:00

A ship and its crew of 22 sailors held by Somali pirates for almost three years have been freed after a two-week siege by maritime police, the government of the breakaway region of Puntland said yesterday.

The sailors aboard Panama-flagged MV Iceberg 1, from the Philippines, India, Yemen, Sudan, Ghana and Pakistan, were held for longer than any other hostages by the pirates, who prey on shipping in the region, according to the Somali enclave’s president’s office.

Siege

Maritime police laid siege to the vessel on December 10th near the coastal village of Gara’ad in the region of Mudug. “After two years and nine months in captivity, the hostages have suffered signs of physical torture and illness. The hostages are now receiving nutrition and medical care,” said a maritime police statement.

The cargo vessel originally had a crew of 24, but two had died since it was seized on March 29th, 2010, some 16km (10 miles) from Aden, pirates said. One of the pirate leaders said they only released the ship after negotiation with Puntland officials and local elders.

“They kindly requested the release of the ship we held for three years. Puntland forces had attacked us and tried to release the ship by force but they failed,” the pirate known as Farah told Reuters.

Ransom

Farah did not disclose whether any ransom had been paid for the crew and the ship, owned by Azal Shipping in Dubai.

Pirates rarely release ships without ransom, and usually raise their demands the longer they hold a ship as they charge for their expenses. – (Reuters)