Somali pirates release hijacked oil tanker, hostages

Somali pirates release hijacked oil tanker, hostages”

Pirates off the coast of Somalia, who hijacked an oil tanker with eight Sri Lankan crew on board, are demanding a ransom for the release of the vessel, the EU Naval Force said.

The pirates were able to escape back to the tanker - which was hijacked on Monday with eight Sri Lankan crew aboard.

However, the local manpower agent who recruited the vessel crew Tyron Fernando said during a media conference held at the Ministry of Shipping that the pirates have not demanded any ransom as yet.

The authorities granted the pirates safe passage.

The release followed a gunfight earlier in the day between the pirates and the marine force, and then intensive negotiations between the marine force, clan elders and the pirates.

The Master of the hijacked bunker tanker Aris 13 succeeded to get in contact with EU Naval Force, which is now operating in the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia. Worldwide anti-piracy patrols on the crucial trade route had calmed such attacks, which once numbered in the hundreds.

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Aid group Oceans Beyond Piracy said in a statement late on Tuesday the ship was carrying gas and fuel and was not registered with the Maritime Security Center for the Horn of Africa, which registers and tracks vessels in the region.

Witnesses told VOA's Somali service that the navy of Somalia's Puntland region intercepted a boat it thought was taking food to the gunmen holding the Aris 13 and its crew. They don't normally kill hostages unless they come under attack.

The incident was the first in some time in a part of the world where pirate hijackings had been common as recently as 2011, the height of the Somali pirate activities.

A Britain-based spokeswoman for the European Union Naval Force operation off Somalia, Flt Lt Louise Tagg, confirmed that an incident involving an oil tanker had occurred and an investigation was underway.

They have blamed Yemeni, Chinese, Indian, Iranian and Djibouti-flagged fishing boats and trawlers, and some have threatened to return to a life of piracy to make money.

It was the first hijacking in the region for five years, and maritime experts have accused ship owners of becoming complacent after a long period of calm.

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