Somali pirates free hijacked Malaysian tanker

September 29th, 2008 - 11:20 am ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Sep 29 (DPA) Somali pirates have released a Malaysian oil tanker after holding the vessel and its 41-member crew hostage for more than a month, reports said Monday.The MT Bunga Melati 5 tanker was hijacked in the Gulf of Aden off Yemen Aug 29, and its crew of Malaysian and Filipino nationals taken hostage.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said late Sunday that the pirates have released the ship, and all remaining crew members were safe.

“All its crew members have been released and the vessel is now heading to Djibouti. The crew members are all in good health,” he said.

“A medical team from the defence ministry comprising of doctors, medical assistants and counsellors are providing assistance to the crew,” Abdullah was quoted as saying by the official Bernama news agency.

He declined to give the reason for their release, but local daily The New Straits Times quoted sources as saying a ransom of $2 million was paid.

The released vessel was attacked just 10 days after another Malaysian tanker was hijacked. Armed Somali pirates had opened fire on the ship, killing one Filipino crew member. The fate of the remaining 38 crew members remains unknown.

Abdullah, who is also defence minister, said negotiations to secure the release of the first ship and its crew members were ongoing.

“The negotiations are showing positive signs. It is our hope that the release of the hostages and tanker can be secured soon.”

“I wish to remind the family members to remain calm. We will do all we can to ensure they return home safely,” he said.

Malaysia sent two warships to escort its ships sailing in pirate-infested Somali waters following the two hijacking incidents.

Somalia’s coast has become extremely dangerous in recent years due to the lack of an effective central authority since 1991.

The anti-piracy International Maritime Bureau has urged the UN to step up efforts to ensure the safety of ships travelling in the troubled waters.

The Gulf of Aden, which connects the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, is one of the world’s busiest waterways with some 20,000 ships passing through each year.

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