SEOUL (AFP) – Somali pirates released 22 sailors they kidnapped last month after the South Korean ship owner paid a ransom, an official said Friday.
The eight South Koreans and 14 Myanmarese were freed Thursday. They had been held since their 15,000-tonne cargo ship was seized off the coast of the east African nation on September 10.
Koo Ja-Woo, an executive director of J and J Trust, which owns the ship, said his company paid an unspecified sum to the pirates through a foreign middleman with experience in dealing with the seizure of ships.
“As a result, we could secure the early release of the sailors. But I cannot disclose the amount,” he told Yonhap news agency.
J and J officials and South Korea’s foreign ministry were not immediately available for comment.
Somali pirates seized the Ukrainian cargo ship MV Faina — which is laden with tanks and weapons — in September 2008. As Somalia sinks ever deeper into hunger and despair, attacking foreign ships bottle-necking into the Gulf of Aden is proving to be one of the few profitable activities in the country.(AFP/Jason R. Zalasky)
The ministry said earlier the South Koreans were expected to return home on October 26.
Somali waters are the world’s most dangerous for piracy. The International Maritime Bureau reported more than 24 attacks in the area between April and June alone.
Maritime experts say many attacks go unreported along Somalia’s 3,700 kilometres (2,300 miles) of largely unpatrolled coast. Pirates operate high-powered speedboats and carry heavy machine guns and rocket launchers.
A South Korean tuna ship with 25 crew was hijacked by Somali pirates in April 2006. The ship and its crew were released after four months when a ransom was paid.
Last year Somali pirates seized two South Korean vessels and 24 crew including four South Koreans.
The crew were released in November after six months in captivity. Local media reports said the pirates had demanded a ransom of five million dollars before reducing the sum to an undisclosed figure.
Puntland coastal guards stand on the deck during a sea-patrol near the northern port town of Bosasso October 17, 2008. Somali security forces freed a Panamanian ship from pirates two days after they killed one of the hijackers in a gun battle.REUTERS/Abdiqani Hassan (SOMALIA)