Somali pirates release Danish-owned tugboat after $700,000 ransom – The Associated Press

March 18th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

MOGADISHU, Somalia: Somali pirates released a Danish-owned tugboat that was held for more than a month after a ransom was paid, local officials said Tuesday.

The British captain, Irish engineer and four Russian crew aboard the Svitzer Korsakov are “safe and healthy,” said Ahmed Said Aw-Nur, the fisheries and ports minister in Puntland, a semiautonomous region of northeast Somalia. (more…)

MOGADISHU, Somalia: Somali pirates released a Danish-owned tugboat that was held for more than a month after a ransom was paid, local officials said Tuesday.

The British captain, Irish engineer and four Russian crew aboard the Svitzer Korsakov are “safe and healthy,” said Ahmed Said Aw-Nur, the fisheries and ports minister in Puntland, a semiautonomous region of northeast Somalia.

Aw-Nur told The Associated Press that the ship was freed after its Danish owner “negotiated with the criminals and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for ransom.” A regional official, who asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said US$700,000 (about €440,000) was paid.

Aw-Nur condemned the paying of ransom “because it can encourage more piracy.” Piracy already is increasingly common along Somalia’s 3,000-kilometer (1,880-mile) coast, which is the longest in Africa and near key shipping routes connecting the Red Sea with the Indian Ocean.

Pat Adamson, a London-based spokesman for Svitzer, declined to comment on reports that a ransom had been paid.

“Seen from a Svitzer point of view it would be irresponsible to provide any details of the operational issues involved,” Adamson told The Associated Press. “It could encourage would-be pirates.”

He said the ship was being escorted to “an appropriate port,” but refused to say where.

The U.S. Navy has led international patrols to try to combat piracy in the region. Last year, the guided missile destroyer USS Porter opened fire to destroy pirate skiffs tied to a Japanese tanker.

Pirates seized more than two dozen ships off the Somali coast last year.

The International Maritime Bureau, which tracks piracy, said in its annual report earlier this year that global pirate attacks rose by 10 percent in 2007, marking the first increase in three years as sea robbers made a strong comeback.

Wracked by more than a decade of violence and anarchy, Somalia does not have its own navy and a transitional government formed in 2004 with U.N. help has struggled to assert control.

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Associated Press Writer Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen contributed to this report

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