(AFP) – Sep 11, 2008
NAIROBI (AFP) — Somali pirates have released a German-operated ship and a Japanese tanker seized last month, a Kenyan maritime organisation said Thursday.
The German's Antigua and Barbuda-flagged MV BBC Trinidad and Japanese MT Irene were seized on August 21 off the unpatrolled Somali coast, said Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan branch of the Seafarers' Assistance Programme.
"As of now, we have confirmed that the two ships have been released by the pirates," he told AFP from the port town of Mombasa.
The MV BBC Trinidad, which was held in the northeastern Somali fishing village of Eyl, has a 13-member crew: a Slovenian captain, 10 Filipinos and two Russians.
"We have got information that 1.1 million dollars was paid for the release of the German ship," said Mwangura, adding that the freighter is headed to Muscat.
Mwangura said the MT Irene, which had 16 Filipinos and three Croatians, was freed from the same village a day after a group of Japanese arrived in Nairobi to boost efforts to release the tanker.
"We have reports that they brought ransom and were coordinating its payment," he added.
Sources close to the pirates in the northern Somali breakaway state of Puntland told AFP that a ransom of 1.5 million dollars was paid for the Japanese vessel but the information could not immediately be confirmed.
According to Somali officials and several maritime organisations, Somali pirates are currently holding several foreign ships hostage off the coast of the troubled Horn of Africa country.
Maritime experts say many attacks go unreported along Somalia's 3,700 kilometres (2,300 miles) of largely unpatrolled coastline infested by pirates, who operate high-powered speedboats and carry heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.
In June, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution authorising foreign warships to enter Somalia's territorial waters with the government's consent to combat pirates and armed robbery at sea, but it is yet to be implemented.
In recent months, a multinational taskforce based in Djibouti has been patrolling parts of the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, where a pirate mothership is believed to be operating.
Some pirates have justified their actions by claiming that, in the absence of a functional central authority in Somalia, they were battling illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping by foreign countries.
Somalia has been without an effective central authority since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Bare set off a deadly power struggle that has defied more than a dozen peace initiatives.
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